Managing Weak Employees

Being a manager is hard. Only the most naive of employee who has never had the responsibilities of a manager or supervisor will try to deny that. And by far, when asked what’s the hardest part of being ‘the boss’, managers will answer ‘managing my employees’.

When a manager doesn’t act on disciplining or terminating a sub-standard employee, it’s not because they don’t notice, or because they don’t care about the stress it puts on the team, it’s usually because they hope, for the teams sake, for that employees sake, and for their own sake, that the situation will improve. And then only when there is a crisis is action taken, and by then it is often too late to prevent bigger problems, such as missed deadlines, squandered resources, and sliding productivity.

So what should managers do? The rule of thumb in management is always to give people the “what to do,” but not the “how to do it” (one exception — new hires). In other words, you want employees to use their own skills to figure things out. But while that generally works with capable employees, some people need a little coaching.

Here are some managing tips from CBS News:

Explain the situation

Compliment the employee for her effort, but make it clear that her performance remains substandard and that you are going to help the person improve it.

Ask for feedback

Give the employee the opportunity to explain his or her side of the issue. The employee may have a valid reason for doing a poor job, such as lack of time, resources, and training. Yet these reasons may also be exaggerations.

Reject excuses

Too often, workplace under-performers get away with things because they are allowed to. Now is the time for the employee to take ownership and agree to improve.

Agree to a plan

Managers can put low performers on a performance improvement plan. But such a plan must always include the words “by when,” meaning the employee is on notice starting now and must improve within a certain time frame, such as 90 days.
Managers must be as specific as possible in offering guidance to under-performers. They should get into how an employee should do his or her job, because at the moment they are not doing it right. Being specific can open the employee’s mind to what must be done.

Managers who avoid confronting such employees also risk alienating other workers on their team. These employees are often picking up the slack, and they can become discouraged when they see the under-performer get away with things for which they are held accountable. It creates resentment. And so when the under-performer is removed, a common response to the manager is, “What took you so long?”


As a manager, have you avoided a weak employee situation?