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Look At Yourself First When Employee Performance Falters

When an employee’s performance falls below expectations, the natural reaction is to blame the employee first. Employees are responsible for meeting (or exceeding) expectations and when they don’t they are surely doing something wrong, aren’t working hard enough or just can’t do the job. And with some employees, one or more of these might very well be the case.

But an employee’s performance is also tied directly to the quality of management oversight and assistance. The role of a manager is complex. The following list offers an overview of the activities required of a manager in supervising employees:

-Hiring people well suited to the job
-Establishing rapport and trust with employees
Setting clear, demanding and reasonable expectations for employees
-Communicating effectively on a daily basis
-Training and development of employees
-Planning and defining projects and work
-Enforcing accountability
-Creating an environment where high performance can occur
Providing feedback about performance to employees
-Coaching and counseling of employees
-Employee discipline

When an employee is struggling, managers should first ask this question; “am I doing my job to the best of my ability?”. There are many cases where an ineffective manager has a profound negative impact on one or more of his/her employees. When a manager is ineffective, even a normally high performing employee can be affected in a negative manner.

Looking at the list above, how many of the tasks do you consistently do well? Managing people requires constant attention to your own performance. The trickle down effect of marginal management on employee performance cannot be overstated. But, it is difficult for many managers to admit that they are contributing to an employee’s performance problems.

Employees who might ordinarily struggle under a less effective manager sometimes flourish under a manager who consistently does his/her job well. But why? A good manager understands his/her employee’s weaknesses and works with them to strengthen those weaknesses. The challenge in managing people is that is takes hard work and a lot of time to do it well. Most managers are unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort required to help employees be as successful as possible. In our opinion, the mark of an effective manager is that they are willing to spend the time necessary to help their employees do their jobs well. They don’t immediately dismiss the employee as the problem. Rather they work with them to develop their skills and create an environment where the employees don’t feel threatened if they do make a mistake.

Obviously, there are employees who will never be able to the job they are currently attempting to do. But how the manager deals with these employees is critical to the performance of the work unit as well. Too many managers ignore problem employees. Left unchecked, problem employees not only underperform, but they can cause those around them to do so as well. When every attempt has been made to coach and assist an employee to higher levels of performance, but it becomes obvious that the employee just cannot do the job, it’s time to deal with that employee either by finding a job they can do well or by by following the prescribed discipline and termination process for your company.

When an employee is struggling to meet expectations, ask why. Look first at yourself. Are you really managing effectively? Use the list above and continually critique yourself in terms of how well you are doing each of the things on that list. Ask yourself if an employee’s performance problems could be associated with your ineffectiveness and in what manner. Ask your employees to give you feedback about your performance. Let them do so in a nonthreatening way. Ask your peers to do the same.

Too many organizations force managers to try to do two jobs at once. They are expected, in essence, to do some form of front line or production work, but are expected to effectively manage their employees at the same time. Unfortunately when a manager gets tied down to a desk doing a lot of detail work, he/she simply can’t spend enough time ensuring that his/her employees are performing at high levels. This often stems from a desire to save money by forcing the manager to take on tasks that would be better left for a lower level employee. When this occurs, the company actually ends up worse off because the productivity of the work unit suffers due to a lack of appropriate attention from the manager. If the manager has a difficult time delegating work and gets bogged down in details someone else should be handling, he/she can’t devote enough time to his/her employees.

To become a more effective manager, constantly self examine your performance. If you are not doing the things that will help make your employees successful, it will be virtually impossible for you to be successful.