By: Kayla Bell on September 26th, 2013

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The Best Approach to Giving an Employee Feedback for Poor Performance

Communication | Total Rewards | Business Management & Strategy | Best Practices | Employee Relations

As HR consultants, clients often approach us seeking guidance on how to manage an employee who is under performing in their current role.  By the time a manager has decided to approach HR with the situation they are often frustrated with the poor performance and are seeking HR intervention.   Poor performance is an inevitable part of every organization and it is imperative that supervisors and HR work together to determine the best course of action for each situation.

In many organizations you can find a progressive discipline policy within the Employee Handbook.  This approach is exactly what the title indicates; a process whereby an employee is given an opportunity to correct poor performance in a process where the offender’s punishment progresses if the poor performance does not improve.

The first phase of progressive discipline is typically to hold a conversation with the employee to identify the performance issue.  The intention of this initial meeting is to make clear to the employee that they are not meeting performance standards and to identify expectations moving forward.   This conversation should take place between the direct supervisor and the employee; the supervisor should reach out to their HR representative for guidance on structuring this conversation and always adhere to company policies.

While holding poor performance feedback discussions, managers should consider the following:

1. Be Intentional: Before meeting with your employee, be sure to identify your desired outcome.  This initial conversation with your employee should be to inform the employee of the unsatisfactory performance and provide them the opportunity to improve.

2. Maintain a Positive Nature: While the purpose of this meeting is to be clear that you are unhappy with performance, you want the meeting to be an open discussion of the issues at hand and measures that the employee can take to improve.  You want the employee to view your message as an opportunity to improve and step up.

3. Be Specific: When you’re letting your employee know that they are underperforming, this cannot be a general statement.  Specific examples of actions (or lack thereof) that have proven detrimental to the team, other departments, and/or the organization need to be discussed.  The employee needs to understand exactly what area of their performance needs improvement.

4. Discuss Impact: It’s not always enough to say what an employee is doing wrong for them to understand the effect that one employee underperforming can have on an organization.  Provide details on how their performance has impacted the team, other departments and/or the organization.

5. Ask Questions: Be sure that you are being fair to the employee and try to understand if there is a legitimate reason for the poor performance.   Are there any problems amongst the team that can be addressed? Is there potentially a need for accommodation? Is there a training issue?  Ask the employee if there is anything you could do, as their manager, to help them be successful.  Understanding the big picture will help determine how to move forward.

6. Determine Next Steps: While you should go into the meeting with a good idea of what you would like to see from your employee moving forward, the conversation may give you a different perspective.  Talk with the employee and identify specific, preferably measurable, areas of performance where you would like to see improvement.  Determine what steps each of you will take to guide the enhanced performance and schedule a follow up meeting to check in with the employee in thirty days.

While it’s not always easy to provide this kind of feedback to your employee, it is imperative to address poor performance early. The above guidelines will help focus the discussion with your employee to allow for open and honest conversation in order to identify methods for improvement.   Maintaining an atmosphere where employees are held accountable will lead to a successful and more engaged workforce.