How to Identify Poor Work Performance
To best identify how employees are performing, establish clear expectations and goals as soon as an employee is hired – then you can measure their performance against those metrics. Managers and supervisors should have constant communication with their subordinates to give feedback and discuss any problems.
“A good leader and an engaged employee will never come to a place where there is a major employee performance issue, since there would be regular conversations about the tasks, expectations, and deliverables, and a mechanism to identify risks, roadblocks, and gaps,” Colton said.
Conducting employee surveys is another way to compare employee performance to the outlined expectations. At the very least, every organization should be conducting annual review surveys, which give employers and employees a chance to formally evaluate performance and identify pain points. Organizations can give additional surveys, like those for employee engagement and satisfaction, to understand whether their staff feels supported and fulfilled in their roles. These types of surveys can boost company morale and improve employee retention.
Potential causes of poor work, While there are many possible internal and external causes for an employee to perform poorly at work, Colton said poor performance is most commonly due to a lack of agreement between the employee and their leader about the work itself, the quality, expectations and/or timelines for completion. This is why you must set clear expectations and maintain an open line of communication.
“Poor performance may also be caused by the employee not having the knowledge or skills to complete the specific task or project, in which case it is the leader’s role to guide, coach or mentor them for their professional growth,” Colton said. “If there is psychological safety, then the employee will willingly raise the gap in knowledge with their leader, who can support them or reassign work across the team to accomplish the goal.”
Poor performance can stem from a lack of willingness or ability (e.g., an employee who is burned out or unhappy with their job is likely to underperform), and some jobs are simply not the right fit for a certain employee. Consider the Peter Principle when promoting employees – the idea that a well-performing employee keeps getting promoted until they can no longer perform well. Babbitt provided the example of a company promoting an introverted software programmer to a management position that requires them to interact well with others; while they were a great programmer, this new job may not fit their strengths.
Poor management, a lack of company vision, toxic work environments (e.g., bullying, harassment, discrimination) and personal problems can also cause an employee’s performance to drop.
“Sudden and unexpected changes in an employee’s health and well-being or their family situation may also be an outside factor in causing poor performance,” Colton said. “An unexpected environmental change, like the COVID pandemic, can cause once-high-performing employees to hit a performance roadblock, or need support to navigate unexpected personal and home needs.”
Once you identify the reason behind the employee’s poor performance, you can determine how to resolve the situation – whether the solution is setting clear goals and expectations, providing more guidance and support, or addressing the internal or external problems the employee is facing.
Key takeaway: Poor work performance can be due to unclear expectations or company vision, a lack of willingness or ability to perform on the employee’s part, poor management, toxic company culture, or an employee’s personal problems.