There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get to the bottom of why someone is underperforming. It can feel as if you are going around in circles trying find out the exact reason(s) why someone isn’t firing on all cylinders. There are times when you think you have cracked it, only to watch on in anger as they slip back into the old routine of missing deadlines, arriving late, or being Mr or Mrs Negative. Sadly most of the time all you are doing is papering over the cracks. The whole process can be quite stressful. You will no doubt have had countless 1:1 meetings and of course the inevitable trips to HR to get their take on things. Then there’s the detrimental effect it can have the team and more importantly the effect it has on you personally as you wander around trying to identify the gap in performance.
Essentially your job is to find the root cause of why someone isn’t performing. Without this you won’t ever get to the bottom of it. There are 5 main performance gaps:
Job Gap – Are you both on the same wavelength when it comes to the job description? Get them to tell you their expectations of the role and what their exact responsibilities are. Match these against your understanding and that way you might identify the gap.
Feedback Gap – The gap may have occurred due to you not giving them regular feedback. Arrange regular 1:1’s and provide them with constructive feedback. Encourage 2 way feedback. You might find something out about yourself!
Competence Gap - Are they up to the job? It may be that you decide to change their role. You may decide to arrange some training, coaching or mentoring to get things back on track. It’s also a good time to review your recruitment methods. How has this person ‘slipped through the net’?
Commitment Gap – Find out why they are de-motivated and disengaged. Ask them what would improve things. Maybe you could potentially change their role, offer a secondment, provide them with more responsibilities e.g. as the team mentor or coach? The reasons may be something personal so be prepared to listen and empathise with them. Offer them support e.g. HR or counselling etc.
Resource Gap – As a Manager your hands are sometimes tied when it comes to resources, however make sure your targets are realistic in light of what’s available. Work with the individual and the team to identify and agree a workaround if there is a lack of resources to hand.
Identifying the reason(s) for underperformance is the key. Without digging deeper you will simply go around in circles. So why not arrange a meeting with your underperformer and speak to them informally at length about their performance? Once you have identified the reason, you can then work proactively together to help close the gap.