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Poor Performance - Your Options For Dealing With It Effectively

Jonathan Farrington

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Poor performance is an issue that faces any manager from time to time. You can deal with it in several ways:

  • Put up with it (not to be recommended)

  • Re-brief or train to allow performance to improve.

  • Re-assign the person to another task that they can do.

  • Terminate employment.

    These options are linked. For example, you should only fire an under-performer having first explored the options of training or re-assignment. If having taken up these options there is no improvement, then more drastic action may be necessary and justified.

    Do not put off taking action because you worry about the reaction of others. Provided action is justified it will almost certainly be approved.

    Most team members hate passengers and are conscious that they and their colleagues have to make up the difference.

    A Major Principle, :

    There is one maxim that, while it may initially seem somewhat obtuse, should be a guiding principle for every manager – and one to take on board early on. It is simply stated:

    As a manager you cannot have the power and the credit".

    This means that you have to think in terms of the team. If you want to get things done – then you have to give other people the credit for what they do. Never:

  • Pass of their ideas as yours (even when you contributed to their origination)

  • Talk about what I have done, when you mean what we or, better still, they or you have done

  • Fail to give credit, within the group and beyond

    You depend on your people. Do not seek credit for what they do; they will, rightly, resent it. And that will adversely affect their performance. If you want credit, it must come from what you do to make your people effective

    Who Is In Charge?

    The answer is clear – you are. The hierarchy means something and you should never apologise for it. Supervision works best when it is not overt but, ultimately, there must be supervision. This means:

  • Making it clear when, where, how and on what issues your approval is required.

  • Keeping control of key issues, while thinking carefully about what they are and where you can empower people to make their own decisions.

  • Recognising that the buck stops with you, facing issues, making decisions and never saying you will deal with things and then sidelining or endlessly postponing them.

  • Being prepared to stick your neck out sometimes and always having the courage of your convictions

    Your people must never doubt who is in charge. If you look like a doormat (even for a second) people will walk all over you. Credibility – once lost – is hard to win back.

    And Finally - Being Part Of The Team:

    You are in authority. You must make decisions and ensure that rules and procedures are followed. But you will not win the hearts and minds of people by being aloof. You carry people with you best by:

  • Leading from the front.

  • Getting involved.

  • Getting your hands dirty occasionally (regularly?)

  • Knowing what is going on so that you are able to do all this.

    People will support those whom they feel understand – and, importantly, have experience of – their situation and are genuinely part of the team. They like it when you pitch in during an emergency (all hands to the pumps) but don’t pick the easiest task! They like it when you sometimes take a turn making the tea or refuelling the photocopier.

    Aim to become part of the team sooner rather than later.

    Copyright © 2007 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

    Jonathan Farrington is the Managing Partner of The jfa Group . To find out more about the author, subscribe to his newsletter for dedicated business professionals or to read his weekly blog, visit:

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