Most organizations are running leaner today. With more rapid changes and team based efforts increasing, problem performers can’t be hidden under the carpet.

Overcoming your reluctance to deal with low performers is the key to your unit’s performance and probably your career as well. Managers who excel at being direct with their reports are said to be timely, consistent and focused on performance improvement. They want to help the person succeed and remain employable in the long term. These are some tips, which will help you in handling difficult conversations regarding performance with your direct reports.

Setting standards of communication

Are your problem performers confused? Do they know what’s expected of them? At times one may become too busy to communicate with the team members or you may have given up on someone and stopped communicating. On the other hand, you may think that they should know what to do. The golden rule is to set the expectations upfront, leave no room for ambiguity. Sit with your direct reports and define the key result areas and how they would communicate the progress to you and the others, having a set of metrics will keep you and the team focused on the end result.

Give pointed feedback

One of the ways to deliver the feedback is to start the meeting by saying “ we have a performance issue to talk about and fix it. You have our support, however this can work only if you start making the changes we are going to agree upon today.

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Be succinct, you will get limited attention span in tough feedback situations. Best to keep off from preamble as the recipient is also eagerly waiting to hear the message. They wont remember anything positive you said in the preamble, as we tend to remember negative feedback more than the positive one. Don’t go on speaking, just because you have to, pick key areas and stick to it in detail.

Have an action plan in place

It’s futile to criticize without a solution and a plan, tell your direct reports what is expected of them in clear terms. When you see unacceptable performance, suggest steps that both of you can take to remedy the problem. Change starts with seeing an unacceptable consequence and a way to steer off from it with support from the management. Improve or else threats without a concrete plan and assurance of support are futile and lead to nowhere.

Jappreet Sethi

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