It is frustrating and de-motivating to work with employees who aren't doing their job. Believe it or not, most under-performing employees are also frustrated and de-motivated. Management thinking in the 90's was that job satisfaction would lead to high performance so the management emphasis was on perks and rewards that would help employees be happy and engaged. More recently, there is a growing body of research to show that job satisfaction follows high performance. Therefore managers who want to have satisfied employees need to focus on helping employees perform well.
There are generally two reasons why employees do not perform well at work:
- Can't do. This occurs when the objectives are not clear to the employee and/or she does not have the requisite skills or resources to do the assigned tasks. It could also be because she doesn't have the necessary support or sponsorship from key leaders to accomplish the task.
- Won't do. This occurs when an employee lacks motivation and fails to take personal accountability for accomplishing her work.
The first order of business for a Manager who is dealing with an underperforming employee is to sort out whether it is a "can't do" or a "won't do" situation. "Can't do's" are addressed through clarification of objectives, skills training, and/or adding resources. If the employee is working hard but none of these approaches work and she still cannot do the job, reassignment may be necessary.
"Won't do's" are addressed through performance management - clarifying goals, monitoring activities weekly or even daily, tracking progress, and managing "up or out." This is the scenario every manager hates. Not surprisingly, employees hate it too.
In my experience, most situations of low performance are of the "can't do" variety. These situations are time consuming, but they are the stuff that real management is made of. Helping a "can't do" employee move to a "can do" is an incredibly satisfying management experience, it's good for the company, and it lifts morale all around.