Do You Tolerate Poor Performance or Let the Slackers Slide?
Have you ever found yourself reluctant to hold an employee accountable because you worry they will leave or quiet quit? Or you let a performance issue fester for fear of not being liked? In this article, we address the common reasons so many managers tolerate poor performance, and what to do instead.
6 Reasons Managers Tolerate Poor Performance
Here’s a gut check if addressing performance issues is hard for you. Do any of these common mistakes sound familiar?
1. Unclear Expectations
You haven’t done the work upfront to define success. So everybody’s frustrated. You’re frustrated with their poor performance, and the poor performer is frustrated with you. Perhaps you’ve tolerated mediocre performance in the past, and now it feels tricky to reset expectations.
Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to reset expectations. Here are two articles filled with practical tips that will help.
You worry you haven’t done enough to support, develop, encourage, build confidence in, empower, or recognize an employee. If that’s true, you’re right-you have more work to do. But if you’ve invested in the employee again and again and it’s still not working, it’s possible that this is not the right fit. Stop feeling guilty. You need to do what’s right for the greater good of the organization, the team, and that person.
If you need help holding accountability or performance feedback conversations, start here.
And if you need to fire someone with compassion, this will help. How to Be Okay When It’s Time to Fire a Poor Performer
3. False Morale
We’ve seen many managers, what we call “Pleasers” in Winning Well, worried about building morale, who actually destroy it. If everything everyone does is “just great,” the people who really give their “all” will wonder why they do. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve had the rest of the team thank us for addressing poor performance. Of course, such conversations are private, but your team is more astute than you may think.
4. Saving Face
You hired the guy. Perhaps you even convinced your boss that he was “the one.” If you’ve done everything you can do to make it work, but it isn’t going well, it’s far better to admit you were wrong, learn from your experience, and move on. Don’t magnify one poor decision with another.
Maybe you’re understandably a little scared. Perhaps you’re not sure how to approach the situation. There’s often nothing harder to do than address poor performance or remove someone from your team. It’s never easy, but it does get easier with preparation and practice. Practice your conversation with a peer or mentor. Use the INSPIRE method (more here). Plan the conversation, and show up curious.
6. Lack of Perceived Alternatives
I (Karin) can recall countless times in my corporate job when someone would call me for an internal reference for a poor performer they were about to hire. After I shared a long list of poor performance issues and concerns, the person was hired anyway.
One hiring manager actually told me, “Well, Karin, you have very high standards. I’m not sure your expectations are realistic. I’m sure the person will do just fine.” And then they wouldn’t succeed.
When the labor market is tight or you have a limited set of choices, the answer isn’t to lower your standards. Reinforce what success looks like and establish a plan to help the person get there if they can. And if they can’t, reorganize, adapt, or change how your team functions. Trying to make a bad fit work will only frustrate them, you, and the entire team.
If you’re looking for more tips like this, you might enjoy our first joint book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results- Without Losing Your Soul. The exciting news is we just recorded a NEW AUDIO version (the first edition was read by a narrator, due to the continued popularity our publisher asked us to record it. the new version is available for pre-order now and will be released October 31st, 2023.
What are the biggest mistakes you see managers make when they tolerate poor performance? How do you encourage them to tackle the performance issues head-on?