When you hand out assignments to team members, you expect the work to get done. That doesn’t always happen. Let’s say an employee finishes the report you asked her to write, but then you discover the final product is riddled with typos and other errors. As a manager, the next step you take can determine your success or failure in dealing with the performance problem, according to Joseph Reed, Ph.D.
Doing a poor job on an assignment falls into the category of “substandard work performance,” Reed explains. If you fail to address the issue right away, this employee could drift further away from the quality standards you expect. Even worse, if other team members sense that substandard work is the new normal, you could be facing more quality problems.
Reed advises managers to quickly get to the root cause of the performance problem. He suggests five possible causes, a couple of which I’ll describe here.
Lack of Knowledge
If you are holding your team to high quality standards, make sure each person knows it. Explain to the group that any typo or factual error in a report, for internal or external audiences, is unacceptable. As Reed says, your explanation won’t be enough. “Telling isn’t training.” You may need to establish a system to have team members proofread each other’s work. Or you may need to require each writer to set aside a report for 24 hours and ask them to reread the document with a critical eye and make final edits before it is sent to you for review.
Lack of Motivation
An employee may also do a poor job on a project, because she isn’t motivated. This situation can arise when a team member faces a new task. For example, you may have asked your sales manager to write a detailed report about the prospect pipeline for the next quarter. The report is now two weeks late and he keeps telling you he is too busy to get to the job. By the way, he might say something like, “why can’t I keep giving you a verbal update like I’ve always done in our staff meetings?” This question is a clue that he’s having trouble committing to the project. If you know your sales manager has the ability to write the report, you’ll need to pinpoint the motivational problems. Have a conversation with him to uncover why he doesn’t want to write the report. Reed also recommends not telling the employee what to do. Instead, explain why the report is important and point out that there is a ‘performance issue.’ Lead him through a conversation that will help him come up with his own plan to produce a timely report in the future.
Review the rest of Reed’s suggestions here and start addressing the performance problems on your team.