How to Deal with Performance Issues and Not Lose Your Mind

Silence when people don’t perform lets everyone know performance doesn’t matter.


7 causes of poor performance:

#1. Management makes it nearly impossible to say no. When employees can’t say no to your face, they say it to your back.

#2. People-pleasing employees smile and say yes, when they should discuss their schedule, deliverables, and priorities with management.

#3. Conflict averse teammates nod their heads but express disapproval with lack of follow through.

#4. Internal systems discourage performance. An employee takes on new tasks and ends up dropping some balls. What happens? They’re punished rather than supported. They learn to pull back.

#5. Lack of honor, reward, or praise for desired behaviors.

#6. Lack of ability or desire.

#7. Uncertainty regarding priorities. Uncertainty makes nervous squirrels of all of us. First one way. Then the other. Finally, run over.

When performance disappoints:

#1. Follow up quickly on second occurrences. Don’t have the same conversation twice and expect different results.

#2. Explore desire and ability. Do they want to perform in this area? Are they able?

Seek the highest good, not reluctant compliance.

#3. Design and establish short-term interventions with teammates.  Possible interventions:

  1. Explore what worked in the past.
  2. Discuss specific behaviors that get the job done. Generalities block successful interventions.
  3. Establish a deadline. (Or ask them to.) “In order to keep things running smoothly, I need this by … . Is that doable for you?”  
  4. Schedule an update email after the task is completed. “It will help me if you send an update email after this job is done.”
  5. Establish your accountability. “If I don’t hear from you, I’ll stop in at 3:00 p.m. to see how things are going.”

Explore behaviors that enable forward movement.


Exemplify personal accountability. Follow through. Delay says it’s not important.

Follow-up with compassion and resolve in ways that:

  1. Value people.
  2. Challenge performance.
  3. Respect organizational goals.

How might managers deal with performance issues as partners?

What short-term interventions to deal with performance issues might you suggest?

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