Margaret Egrot offers tips on dealing with poor performance
Tackling under-performance is not a comfortable process for managers who must balance the need to gather evidence with continuing to provide support. But the consequences of ignoring a problem can be much worse. When talking to a practitioner about apparent poor work managers should:
Understand why people may under-perform
Do they lack the confidence or knowledge to do the job properly? Do they lack the motivation? Are there problems in their personal life? These, however, are not excuses for failing to provide an acceptable service to clients.
Aim to prevent the problem
Before a practitioner starts with the team you should look into any learning needs. If the practitioner has a disability, have you addressed the need for equipment?
Provide regular supervision
Keep a record of what issues have been raised in supervision; what support you have provided; your expectations of work to be done; and whether it has been done on time to an acceptable standard. Collect specific evidence. When you can, observe the work in question.
Choose the right time and place to talk:
Will you address it as part of supervision, or at a separate meeting? Ensure that you have arranged for the meeting to take place somewhere private where you will not be interrupted. Allow the practitioner to give his or her side, but ensure you state your own concerns clearly.
Be prepared for a negative reaction
Crying, pleading, anger, personal attacks on your calibre as a manager are among possible responses. You will need to keep calm and maintain the focus on the issue (to improve the service to the clients) not the practitioner. Unless the practitioner is too distressed, conclude the meeting with an agreement in writing on how the work can be improved, and the support and oversight you will provide.
Establish your own support network
The process is stressful. Your line manager, human resources department, and fellow managers are likely to be supportive, and to have useful advice. You will certainly need HR and line management involvement if the situation deteriorates.
By identifying potential problems early, providing reasonable support, exploring alleged instances in a calm but thorough way, maintaining focus on the intended outcome and enlisting appropriate support for yourself, emerging performance problems are usually solvable.
Better that, than leave them to become entrenched.
Margaret Egrot is a freelance consultant and trainer and has a particular interest in the role of the middle manager in improving the delivery of frontline services. She has more than 20 years of experience in management in the public and voluntary sector.
This article is published in the 8 April issue of Community Care magazine under the heading How to tackle under performance