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Manage poor performance with this five-step joint problem-solving approach

by , 23 January 2014
You can't just give a poor performing employee a warning to improve. You need to give him active assistance to help him. How do you go about doing this? Follow this five-step joint problem-solving approach when managing poor performance.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service says performance counselling is a collaborative process of 'joint problem-solving'.

This means the solution to your problem (i.e. the employee's under-performance) lies in you helping your employee to solve the underlying problem that contributes to or causes the under-performance (whether this is personal in nature or work-related).

How do you do this?

Follow this five-step joint problem-solving approach when addressing poor performance

The key ingredients of a problem-solving approach are:

Step #1: Determine and explain or confirm the problem with your employee.

You can do this by:

  • Explaining the problem to your employee. Tell him that his poor performance isn't acceptable. Show him examples of his underperformance so that it's clear he understands. Don't speak in general terms. Be specific.
  • Confirming your expectations. Tell your employee what you expect of him.
  • Explaining what effect his underperformance has on the business and the team.

Step #2: Identify the underlying causes of the problem through discussions with your employee. Make sure you listen to your employee.

Step #3: Brainstorm together with your employee to determine as many solutions to the problem as possible without discussing or criticising them.

Step #4: Afterwards, start evaluating the proposed solutions on the basis of their feasibility, practicality and affordability.

If you can't implement some of your employee's proposals, explain why. Don't simply ignore his proposals.

Step #5: Put in place a detailed plan of action. This plan is your tool to manage the problem. Here's what to include in your plan:

  • A description of the problem,
  • A description of the causes of the problem,
  • Stipulate the practical steps to address the underlying causes
  • A time frame for remedying the problem.
  • Review dates, i.e. dates when further discussions


Important: Never cancel the review meeting if your employee's performance has improved. Use the opportunity to encourage your employee. Specify a final review date. But, if performance still hasn't improved by that date, hold a hearing.

Well there you have it. The only way you'll improve your employee's performance is if you give him active assistance to help him improve. And these five steps will help you do just that.

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