Coaching Mediocre Employees: When to Say “Enough Is Enough”

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After a long and comprehensive vetting and selection process, you finally hired an employee who seems talented and promising in every way. Both of you seem equally excited to begin your partnership, and you’re ready to extend your trust and give your new employee the benefit of the doubt as he learns the ropes.

But within a few weeks of his start date, your confidence begins to waver. The new employee is not earning the trust of his mangers or the respect of his direct reports, and his issues are arising without warning; after all, he presented himself competently and confidently in his interview. How should you move forward? And most important, how long should continue your chosen course of action before accepting that you made a hiring mistake and letting him go?

First, provide diplomatic feedback.

Meet with the employee and explain your side of situation. Ask him if he agrees that things are going poorly. During your first meeting, keep careful records and don’t threaten the employee or provide ultimatums. Just listen to his side of the story and work together to establish a path forward.

Keep employee’s action plan concrete, not abstract.

Don’t include abstract steps in your plan, such as: “Improve communication style”. Instead, establish concrete actions and clear milestones that will lead to improvement. For example: “Provide direct reports with detailed instructions in writing.” A concrete milestone might include: “Complete X project by the end of the month.”

Recognize the multiple factors that influence behavior.

Behavior rarely takes place in a vacuum. Recognize that your employee’s poor behavior or performance are not likely the result of inherent personal weaknesses; Instead, they may come from insufficient training, inadequate tools, a misunderstanding about the fundamental nature of the position, or a core disconnect between the employee’s values and the values required by the job. Work with the employee to identify these influences.

Establish a finite number of follow up meetings.

Meet with the employee to track his progress vis-à-vis his performance improvement plan, but don’t keep meeting beyond an established timeline unless you’re recognizing measurable progress and improvement. If you don’t see any change, keep documenting your meetings and begin providing clear warnings that highlight the path to eventual termination.

Work with a staffing partner.

The best way to avoid dealing with a problem employee is by hiring cultural matches with proven, tested skill sets. Working with the established team of Little Rock staffing experts at CSS can help you solve hiring and personnel problems long before they start! Contact our office to learn more.

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