What To Do About Your Worst Employee

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Every project manager dreams of having a strong team comprised of top talent. Unfortunately, these fantasies very rarely turn into reality as almost every staff has at least a couple employees who don’t always live up to their potential.
While these workers mean well, they need a great of help to improve their daily performance. Some contributors might struggle to complete basic tasks and others may be lazy. Either way, it’s up to their managers to eliminate negative behaviors and help their employees grow.
Our own Lee Appleyard recently went over how to identify your weakest staff members and provided some tips for helping them. The following is some additional strategies for dealing with your worst workers.


Emphasize the importance of the team
“No man is an island” is an old adage that’ll always be true. No one is ever truly alone, and that’s always the case when it comes to working on a project as everyone always has a team.
The rest of the staff can actually be a huge help when it comes to helping an underachiever correct his or her issues. In a report on our site, Taylor Williams reviewed what it means to be a great team player and the common behaviors of the best collaborators.
Project managers should teach their workers how to function as part of a group to help correct any issues. By making people feel like they aren’t isolated, supervisors can ensure that everyone is on the same page.
In the case of laziness hurting productivity, leaders should emphasize how poor performance hurts the group overall. Many workers will realize that their actions mean that their colleagues have to do additional work to ensure that projects are finished on time. As a result, many employees will pick up the pace and stop slacking off so often.
Be open about your complaints
The Houston Chronicle’s Owen Richason IV recently noted that managers should be up front with their concerns about an employee’s performance. When no one tells workers that they’re not meeting certain standards, then they think that everything is fine and there’s no reason to change anything.
It may be tough to give negative feedback, but you can’t afford to hide the truth from your staff. You need to speak with people about what you want them to do to help finish a project and detail how they’ve been failing to meet those standards.
You should address any concerns as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more an employee will hurt production. Additionally, small mistakes will become bad habits that’ll become difficult to break so it could be quite awhile before the worker could improve.
Simply pull the problem contributor aside and say you’re not happy with how things currently stand. Explain that you want to help and ask if there are any issues you should know about moving forward. Once you’ve established a dialogue with the team member, you should listen to his or her feedback and then develop solutions on how to improve the situation for everyone.
Know what to ask
Sometimes getting to the heart of an issue can be nearly impossibly, especially if you’re not asking the right questions. Jeff Mowatt, a customer service strategist, told The Globe and Mail’s Marlene Habib that managers need to ask questions starting with who, what, where and when, but never why.
“The minute you ask ‘Why,’ like ‘Why didn’t you do this?’ usually the answer is because ‘I was stupid or incompetent.’ You don’t really want to go there. It’s not constructive,” Mowatt said.
Indeed, your workers probably don’t have an answer to an abstract question so it’s better to stick with ones that have hard answers.
When addressing employees, the goal is to get them to identify issues and actually respond in a positive fashion. If you ask why something’s happening, they’ll probably give you an excuse instead of an actual reason.
What’s more, it doesn’t really matter why someone isn’t meeting expectations. The only important part is that the issue is flagged and that the employee actively starts working toward a solution to eliminate negative behaviors in the future. This is the only way to turn a weak contributor into a strong one.

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