5 Steps for Managing an Underperforming Employee

5 Steps for Managing an Underperforming Employee

You’ve noticed that one of your employees has been making a lot of errors recently. Or maybe a staff member always seems to be behind on his work. Before simply saying, “You’re fired,” take some time to consider your next move. With a little time and effort, you may be able to uncover the deeper issue(s) and turn the situation around.

Here are five helpful steps to take:

1. Recognize the signs.
Every employee is going to make an occasional error or have a bad day from time to time. We’re all human. But if you notice an ongoing or repeated issue, take note. Jot down specific examples to help you keep track of the incidents so you can determine if there’s a pattern of underperformance. This log will also come in handy if and when you address the situation with your employee.

2. Identify the root cause.
Don’t just treat the symptoms. Like with any medical diagnosis, what appears on the surface can give you hints as to the reasons why something is happening. For example, what may come across as laziness—chronically late to work, no sense of urgency, or a reactive attitude—might actually be an indication that your employee doesn’t feel challenged on the job. While you may have some idea about the root cause of the underperformance, you might also have to dig deeper during a face-to-face discussion to confirm the real issue.

3. Determine any possible risks to the practice and your patients.
Is the employee putting patients’ health or privacy at risk? Is he or she exposing the practice to possible security breaches or HIPAA violations? The seriousness of the situation could help you decide how to proceed and how quickly you need to take action. Explaining the consequences—both actual and potential ones—will reinforce why the employee’s behavior must change.

4. Address the issue.
Arrange for a time to talk with your employee. Or you could also ask his or her direct manager to not only organize a meeting for the three of you, but also lead the conversation. Either way, you should keep to the facts and speak only about what you’ve witnessed, rather than what you think has happened. It’s also good to express your concern for the employee and your desire to get things back on track. But leave your personal emotions and judgments out of it.

Then be sure to listen to your employee’s side of the story. What he or she says will help you understand the root cause of the issue so you can work together on an appropriate action plan. With the employee’s input, establish performance expectations or specific goals for improvement.

5. Follow up.
Set a deadline for when the goals should be achieved or agree on a follow-up date to touch base regarding the person’s progress. At that point, you’ll want to reward any improvements or consider whether termination might be necessary, depending on whether you’ve seen the employee make any changes for the better.

These five steps are a great way to evaluate and encourage improvement in your employees’ job performance. While it can be a difficult situation, by taking the time to listen and trying to understand what’s truly going on, there’s a good chance you’ll help the employee feel empowered, valuable, and supported. And that small but powerful change may help you avoid having to fire and then hire someone, while fostering a more positive team environment within your practice.

 

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