Development Cooperation Handbook/How do we manage the human resources of programmes and projects?/Discipline Minimal Performers

Steps and Tools

Underperforming Employees: Warning Signs and Management Responses Performance Review Middle Management Capabilities, Empowerment and Accountability

Templates Checklist for Identifying Performance Problems Checklist for Diagnosing the Causes of Underperformance

Here we speack of techniques for recognizing performance gaps so that measures can be taken to ensure employees achieve their full potential. The warning signs of significant – but often overlooked – problems are provided and effective strategies for improving employee performance are addressed.   What Is Underperformance? organizations that enjoy superior performance invariably attribute this to their higher-performing workforce. Every organization occasionally encounters underperforming employees and must grapple with how to respond. Underperformance may be defined as the difference between what an employee could contribute and what the employee actually contributes.     Identifying Performance Gaps A performance gap is the difference between actual performance and set expectations for an individual; or comparison between one employee’s performance and that of another in the same job; or of an employee’s performance over time. For example, if an employee had a performance expectation of increasing revenue by 5 percent but increased it by only 2 percent, you can say that a performance gap exists. Performance gaps need to be identified as soon as possible to prevent the problem from growing larger or affecting other employees. The process of recognizing whether a performance gap exists is separate from pinpointing the cause.   Checklist for Identifying Performance Problems

Exploring the cause of performance problems When supervisors detect poor performance, they need to explore the causes of the problems. Managers should accurately identify the causes of poor performance because the determination affects performance evaluations, can be a source of unspoken conflict and determines the appropriate solution.  A supervisor will evaluate an employee differently if the supervisor realizes that poor performance in a specific instance resulted from the employee not having the proper resources versus not trying hard enough. Furthermore, tension can develop when employees and managers have significantly different perceptions of why goals were not met. Managers should consider ability, motivation and situational factors when determining why there have been performance deficiencies. All three factors influence an employee’s performance. Ability includes an employee’s talents and knowledge. And situational factors are organizational characteristics such as training, resources and information that can help or hinder performance.

Avoidance and the Attribution Process Employees and organizations sometimes go to great lengths to justify underperformance. They may characterize it as a one-time occurrence despite data to the contrary or blame it on macroeconomic trends. Some managers ignore deficient performance because of their own discomfort with providing criticism or inability to diagnose the cause of the problem. Underperforming employees often exhibit avoidance behaviors, typically by withdrawing from contact with their supervisor. When supervisors detect performance gaps, they need to explore potential reasons for it and accurately identify the cause. Otherwise, they may waste money and prescribe the wrong solutions.   The method that people use to explain their behavior and that of others is called the attribution process. Supervisors may attribute the cause of underperformance either to the subordinate (internal attribution) or the environment (external attribution). Low motivation and low ability are examples of internal attribution; task interference and poor supervision are examples of external attribution.   A major hurdle to identifying the causes of underperformance is the actor-observer difference. Sometimes called the actor/observer bias. This phenomenon occurs when the employee blames external factors for underperformance and managers blame the employee’s level of motivation or ability. Managers should be aware of this perceptual problem because employees will not respond well to strategies designed to change their behavior if they believe the problem lies elsewhere. The perceptual problem also could cause managers to overlook the real cause of the problem if they fall victim to the bias and assume that the cause lies with the employee.   Behavior also must be interpreted within its cultural context. As organizations globalize, managers should remember that behavior they consider inappropriate might have been socially acceptable in an employee’s native culture.  

4. Diagnosing the Cause of Underperformance Our model of employee behavior in organizations predicts that employees generally tend to perform well if the following are present: § The necessary ability § Interest in doing the job § Opportunity to grow and advance § Clearly defined goals, made explicit. § Feedback on how well they are doing § Rewards for performing well and punishments for performing poorly § Ability to obtain the resources to do the job.   It is important to keep in mind that when organizations investigate performance problems, they must respect rights to privacy. The right to privacy protects employees from unreasonable or unwarranted intrusions into their personal affairs.

Checklist for Diagnosing the Causes of Underperformance

See also Addressing Resistance 

Personal Problems Employees tend to bring their personal concerns to work. The reality is that the lives of employees are not bifurcated into two distinct spheres; the spheres overlap. Before managers can deal with employees suffering health or other problems, they need to know that one exists and how to spot the warning signs before the problem escalates.    Work-family conflict often arises in organizations that lack family-friendly policies such as telecommuting or flextime. Organizations can identify whether employees experience abnormal levels of such stress by reviewing comments in exit interviews, conducting anonymous employee surveys and comparing absenteeism rates to sector of activity averages.   Managerial and Organizational Performance Employee underperformance often occurs because of poor management. As organizations become flatter, line managers play increasingly significant roles in motivating employees, managing conflict and ensuring the correct execution of actions that promote the department’s success.  An employee’s performance problem may be a symptom of a managerial problem. A manager may not be articulating expectations clearly, may be harassing the employee or may lack skills needed to guide the department. In these cases, the solution should target the manager as much as – or more than – the individual employee.   Organizational policies and practices also can contribute to underperformance. Errors in the selection process can lead to a mismatch between an employee and an organization. For example, an employee who accepts a job in an autocratic workplace but who thrives in and expects a democratic workplace likely will be unhappy and develop performance problems. A realistic job preview is one of the best methods for creating appropriate expectations. It provides realistic information to job candidates about the job’s demands, the organization’s expectations and the work environment.   Underperformance also can be a result of failing to orient and socialize the new employee into the organization. The orientation process informs new employees about what is expected of them and helps them cope with the stresses of transitioning into a new job. Similarly, socialization is the process of familiarizing the new employee with the organization culture. For employees to fit into the organization, they need to understand, learn and adapt to the organization’s culture. If employees are not provided proper orientation and socialization, they may not meet performance expectations.   Underperformance linked to poor management is a worldwide phenomenon. Poor management, particularly inadequate planning and day-to-day supervision, accounted for 65% of lost productivity in British organizations, according to a 2002 survey. Almost 20% of Japan's workers are disillusioned with their jobs, according to the Gallup Organization. The reasons cited: poor management and employee-job mismatches.   Training to Improve Performance Underperformance that stems from poor management or employee deficiencies often can be addressed through training programs. Training should target specific skills, and management needs to have realistic goals for the program. One lesson will not transform a computer novice into an expert, for example.   The training process includes assessment to determine the deficiency that should be addressed; the training phase, where experts design and deliver the appropriate training; and evaluation to assess the training’s effectiveness. Skill training focuses on a particular skill area identified in the needs assessment phase. Providing employees who undergo skill training with reference materials – or job aids – helps to ensure that the training results in improved performance. Creativity training attempts to help managers and employees solve problems in new ways. One popular approach is the introduction of brainstorming sessions, in which participants generate ideas – no matter how wild – and later consider their feasibility. Cross-functional training involves training individuals to perform operations in areas other than their assigned job. Cross-functional training can be delivered through job rotations, temporary departmental “trades” of employees, or peer training. Foundation managerial training provides knowledge of management disciplines such as finance, human resources and marketing. Managerial training is particularly useful to junior managers or employees transitioning into their first managerial role. Diversity and sensitivity training teach managers about cultural, gender or other differences and how to respond constructively to these in the workplace. It can help improve the work environment and educate managers who have demonstrated insensitivity to their subordinates.     Practices and Policies to Curb Underperformance Not all performance problems call for training. For example, clinically depressed employees need help, not training. Occasionally even when training is appropriate and provided, employees still fail to improve and organizations must take further action. Organizations can improve employee performance by providing tools for the employee to cope with personal problems, rewarding productive behavior and punishing employees who resist help to improve performance.   Some of typical interventions and practices to help underperformers improve include: · Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These employer-provided programs help employees with chronic personal problems that hinder job performance. EAPs provide confidential assistance with substance abuse, marital problems, dependent care, mental health, smoking cessation and bereavement counseling. · Employee benefits and policies. These empower employees to coordinate their work and non-work activities in ways to reduce distractions and stress. For example, flextime gives employees a choice when to start and end their workday, within limits. · Positive reinforcement systems. This method informs employees how well they are meeting expectations and reward improvements with praise and recognition. Positive reinforcement encourages desirable behaviors by establishing reward systems for achieving them. This works when employees can control the behavior. For example, it would not be appropriate for an employee suffering from depression.   Managers should never use “the whip,” verbally berating or harassing employees. However, acceptable discipline interventions are justified when all else fails. Some examples: · Negative behavioral strategies. Pay cuts, unpaid leaves or demotions may be appropriate if other efforts fail to curtail dysfunctional behavior. · Job restructuring. This approach restructures the employee’s job to isolate his or her sphere of influence. This method should be avoided because it may be perceived as special treatment. However, neutralizing may be a preferred option if the employee is close to retirement or termination is not an option. · Non-punitive programs. organizations place individuals on a one-day paid “decision-making leave” for them to decide whether to change immediately or to quit.  

Tools edit

Templates edit

  Applicant employee evaluation form
  Staff Activity Forecast and Report
  Interpersonal skill assessment
  Employee Performance Review – Peer Review
  Performance appraisal forms

Guidelines edit

  Key Questions for Establishing the Team Organization
  How to reach an agreement on the Employee Performance Objectives
  How to manage motivated and effective teams
  How to recognize if Team Building is successful
  How to check the level of togetherness in a team
  Measures to make teams more performing
  The 5 steps of team creation
  Checklist for Identifying Performance Problems

  Why do organisations need to plan and manage their communication?
  How team members can improve overall project communication
  Measures to make teams more performing
  Required characteristics of the project manager
  The 10 Project Management Guiding Principles

See also edit

In other sections of this handbook
  The employee empowering organization
  Managing the Human Resources of a project team

  Managing the recruitment and selection processes
  Manage the Team performance
  Review employee performance
  Improve employee performance
  Recognize and Success and Reward Superior Performance

  Team Conflict Management
  Decision Making in Groups
  Leading and Managing
  Team Conflict Management
  Decision Making in Groups
  Project Managers and programme Managers
  Determining the project manager