Dealing with Performance Problems

Then again, you could just have a bad apple. Face it—the world has a lot of people who are there simply to collect a paycheck, who take very little pride in their work and refuse to be involved as a team member. In such situations, you have to take some time, build a objective documentation basis, and then replace the individual who has the problem.

Here' s where it gets really hard: There may be no one else to replace this person! You ' re stuck trying to work it out as best as you can with this individual. But if there are others available, you need to first be sure that you ' re not going into a meeting where you' re going to fire someone from the team and say very subjective (and very dumb) things.

Following are some sure-fire statements you can make in such a setting to show how little you know about management:

■ You: "Everyone's talking about what a poor job you're doing!" Employee:

"Oh really? Who's everyone?"

■ You: "You know, I really expect more out of you than this!" Employee: "Do tell! How does it feel to expect and not be rewarded?"

■ You: "You know, if I had twelve more like Sam..." Employee: "Maybe you can get Sam cloned and leave me alone!"

■ You: "Why isn't this project as important to you as it is to me? Don't you understand what we're trying to accomplish here?" Employee: "Yeah, you're trying to accomplish that $10,000 bonus you get for bringing this thing in on time and under budget!"

Use positive communications in a nonthreatening way that will help such people either give you the information you desire to help clear up the problem they©re having or else allow you the leeway you need to let them go.

Conversely, what about great performers who have substantially dropped in their performance? There could be all kinds of factors driving such a thing: too much overtime, debt, family problems, loss of belief in the project, illness, etc.

With this kind of situation, you should sit down with this person over a cup of tea or coffee and try to talk things out. You should take your time— don't go in with both guns blazing! Instead, be honest: tell the team member that you've noticed a drop in productivity. Next, ask if he has any idea what the problem might be. More than likely, if you've maintained a good one-on- one relationship all along with this person, he'll open up and tell you what's happening. If not, then there's nothing that you can do other than tell him that you'll pay a little more attention to his work, to see if there's something you can do to assist. Sometimes you'll hear a complaint from one person on the team that another person isn't doing her job. Dealing with scenarios like this can be tricky, because you have to first substantiate what you're being told and then deal with the problem. If you cannot validate that the person you ' re told was slacking off is truly doing so, then you may have a jealousy or sabotage issue on your hands, and you must manage things from a whole different perspective. Keep in mind that you may be dealing with people who have very different skills—one might be a programmer, another a budget analyst, for example—and one person doesn' t understand what the other ' s job is all about.

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