7 Reasons Your Staff Has Performance Problems and What You Can Do About It

When an employee isn’t meeting expectations because of any number of performance problems, the first step in helping them improve is to find out why. Sometimes simply getting to the source of the performance problems and fixing it can turn things around. As you think about helping poor performers improve, consider what might be getting in their way.

Here are seven common causes of performance problems:

  1. Don’t have a reason to care

  • Carefully explain their role and how important they are to their team members and to the organization’s larger goals
  • Provide specific examples of contributions they’ve made in the past
  • Give them a feeling of ownership in what’s going on by keeping them


  1. Don’t know what their job is

  • Define their job position. Look at a job description together.
  • Ask if the definition makes sense to them
  • Solicit their views on how it might be better defined
  • Come to a written agreement on the definition


  1. Lack the knowledge or skills

  • Identify the gaps
  • Decide if the employee is miscast in this role
  • If the employee is not miscast, provide training, coaching or tutoring to address the specific gaps, one at a time
  • Monitor their “transfer of learning”


  1. Don’t agree with the program

  • Draw a verbal picture of how their role ties in to the organizational goals
  • Ask if they understand this. If not, solicit their ideas
  • Listen carefully to the ideas and respond to each; don’t write them off as bad ideas
  • If any ideas are valuable, say you’ll follow up on them—and do so
  • Remind employees that they don’t have to agree with the program, but they do have to meet the specified performance goals


  1. See no reward

  • Establish creative incentives and publicize them
  • Emphasize the value of peer respect for a job well done
  • Paint the picture that their good performance will result in organizational achievements that might reflect in their salaries, bonuses, stock options, etc.


  1. Want to be rewarded no matter what

  • Never reward poor performance
  • Quickly address poor performance
  • Establish parameters for performance so the employees know what is poor and what is worthy of reward


  1. Have an illness or other personal issue

  • Be patient and empathetic
  • Be discreet with personal issues
  • Contact HR for guidance in most cases
  • Consult the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if necessary

In closing, keeping communication lines open is the most important aspect of managing employee performance. Managers talk about being “kept in the loop,” but then fail to reciprocate. That causes confusion and frustration among the staff. Stick to an open door policy and make a daily effort to talk to your employees. Talk about everything, from the frivolous to the important, and you’ll stay on top of these seven causes long before they become problems. Identifying the root cause of the performance problem is key before you can find the right solution.


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