“He’s just hopeless! He must go ….. now!”…… How often have we heard words to this effect, or perhaps even shouted them out in frustration ourselves?

All too frequently poor performers are allowed to get away with it for far too long before any meaningful corrective action is taken. It’s similar to a geyser bubbling away beneath the surface – you know that it’s eventually going to blow but cannot deal with it right now so instead you try to keep it submerged.

Until one day – kaboom!…..and when that happens we all know that there’s not much chance of getting it back under control. The blow-out would most likely have been the result of some relatively minor issue, with a management response totally out of proportion due to the baggage that was not dealt with previously. The outcome is often a bitter, non-constructive and expensive parting of ways. There are no winners in this scenario – the employee loses their job and seeks legal advice. The employer is probably stressed about what went down, has to go through the cost of recruiting again …. and will soon need to deal with the ex-employee and their legal advisor!

There is a better and far more productive way of dealing with these issues.

1. ‘Feed Forward’: Set clear expectations with your team – the great majority of us want to do a good job! You can help by first of all setting the scene: let everyone know what you expect to happen …..and what you expect NOT to happen!

2. ‘Feed Back’: Follow up regularly – Celebrate targets that are met and help adjust the aim of those who do not hit the bulls eye. Be prepared to praise good work but also to criticise poor work when it happens and to have those harder conversations when it is necessary

3. ‘Feed’: Motivate your team – give each individual good reason to continue to want to do a good job for you! Make sure they also have all the necessary tools and training to be able to excel

When all this does not seem to be working you may still need to ‘go formal’ – draw that line in the sand and let your poor performer know that their non-achievement is no longer tenable and a clear improvement is expected. Formally set clear objectives and timeframes within which these are to be achieved. Identify the support that you will give to help make the necessary improvement and let them know that their job will be on the line if they do not pick up their game. Set the plan out in writing and give your employee a copy. Stick to your side of the bargain and follow through fairly but firmly: the outcome will either be a clear lift in performance or the employee will realise that they cannot make the expected grade and will seek their own exit before you escalate any further.

Sometimes you may still need to go a step further and terminate employment for poor performance after following due process. The employee may still not agree with the decision and may still go straight to their legal advisor. However in these cases you will have a trail of clearly documented evidence that you attempted to assist your employee before taking the final decision to dismiss.