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Dealing with the weakest link in the workplace

Use these strategies to manage underperformers and help your team reach its full potential.
By Priya Prakasan

Just as there are star performers, organisations, departments, and teams also have underperformers who if left unchecked can reduce productivity and bring down the morale. That’s not to say the weak link is necessarily a destructive team member, but potential is always there. As a leader you have to address the issue and arrest that slow downhill slide. Here are some methods to help you do that.

1. Improve the quality of training
Since most of the organisations have a basic training method for all employees, it often does not cover the specifics of a particular department, team or role, or even critical emerging areas of risk. So consider creating a better training program for your team members that provides a better introduction to the department, systems, processes, and even their role in the company vision. Focus on common problem areas and ensure the training provided is as per performance expectations. This will help prevent weak links as well as improve retention.

2. Support them by identifying areas of strength
Deal with underperformance as soon as possible. Once the employee’s weakness has been identified, provide training, support, etc to improve performance. Also identify the person’s strengths and ensure those are being leveraged. Is their role on the team matching their skill set? Often it is not the lack of ability to perform but an unsuitable job role that makes an employee a weak link. So take a good hard look at the role assigned to them and have a frank discussion about whether their profile needs to change.

3. Establish strong company culture
A good leader establishes a strong company culture to encourage good employee behaviour and discourage negligent habits. Establish clear consequences for employees who demonstrate negligent behaviour or cause a breach. Likewise, you should also provide incentives and recognition for those employees who perform well so as to encourage positive behaviour and create a culture of security.

4. Avoid emotional confrontation
It can often be frustrating dealing with an employee who seemingly doesn’t get it right no matter what. But losing your cool and letting your emotions dictate your behaviour is a definite no. Avoid making accusatory, derogatory or confrontational remarks. Stay away from threats as well. Before the discussion gather as many facts as possible and explore all scenarios. Remember to keep an open mind and actively listen to what they have to say. When discussing their performance with them be as specific as you can about the issues, instead of speaking in broad terms. Send a clear message and explain your expectations so that there is no room for misinterpretation.

5. Encourage two-way communication
The best leaders are those who encourage two-way communication. They understand the importance of an open dialogue and give employees the opportunity to express their thoughts on issues. In this case, as the underperforming employee about what they think is going wrong; how do they perceive the situation? Do they have an approach to the problem that works for them? How do they think the work could be done differently? Discuss all ideas, potential solutions and approaches. And remember to discuss only their performance, without passing judgement on him/her as a person. Together set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed performance goals. Schedule a follow up to access the improvement in performance and provide feedback on the same.

6. Coach and mentor
Another important step in dealing with a weak link is to offer mentoring sessions to help them get back on the tack. Set regular meetings to coach them and remove barriers to success. Work on a potential approach and make them aware of how their work affects the company’s goals. This will help them a sense of purpose and help them understand their work and role in the broader scheme of things. Work to understand their career goals and see how they can be aligned to their work profile. They will work harder if they feel their goals align with those of the company.

Photograph: Peoplecreations/Freepik.com 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz

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