Turn an under performing employee around by couching, motivating the employee, giving them clearly defined expectations and make sure they are fully trained. Every company has some “ducks.” Ducks are employees who have a detrimental effect on productivity. Their work is consistently substandard, they rarely meet deadlines, and their skills are out of date.
They hate change, resist taking responsibility, and blame their failures on co-workers. They constantly complain about their projects, their teammates, their workloads and their managers. They stifle innovation by shooting down new proposals, claiming that changes “just can’t be done.”
You have tried couching, progressive discipline and every other method in your manager’s toolbox to get these people turned around. They de-motivate your employees which can spread like a disease infecting even your best performers.
So what do you do with your ducks? The simple answer is to fire them, but in today’s world due to fear of litigation HR can make you run a gauntlet of policies that can take months.
How to Deal With The Ducks in Your Pond
There are a lot of ways managers handle an under performing employee. Here are some suggestions of what to do with your ducks.
- Deal the problem right away. The longer you let them go, the harder it will become to deal with. This also reduces the impact on morale.
- Fully examine what is going on with the employee. Sit down and talk with them about their performance. Do they need more training or retraining? Are there external factors in their life that could be causing the problem? Be sure you know what the problem is before you try and craft a solution. You may have a diamond in the rough, or you may just have a duck.
- Does the employee know what is expected of them? Be sure to communicate expectations even to the point of putting it in writing what is expected of the employee. It makes sure the employee knows what is expected of them and gives you written documentation should you need to move to dismissal.
- Keep a performance log on each employee and document everything. The good and the bad. It gives you a detailed chronological log of the issues and how you have addressed them. HR needs documentation and it helps protect you should issues arise at or after dismissal.
- Follow-up often, at least every two weeks with the employee as you work your way through progressive discipline. Make sure each time that they are fully aware of what the problems are and what the consequences are. Document each meeting in the personal log.
- During your follow-up meetings ask the employee for solutions. Often employees are reluctant to discuss the true nature of what is causing their performance problem. For instance it may be that another employee is the source of their issues.
- Follow your HR department policies and use progressive discipline. If all efforts fail, terminate the employee. If I were in their shoes it would only take one meeting for me to correct the problem. If you have had numerous meetings, made the employee fully aware of the problems and the consequences and they still do not turn things around, terminate. It is never pleasant, but you must do what is best for the company, yourself and the employee.
Do Not Hire Ducks!
The easiest way to avoid having ducks land in your department is not to hire them in the first place. Be sure you do not lower the bar just to fill a position. Be very thorough in the interview process. Candidates should be made fully aware of what the expectations of them are before they are hired.
One problem with the hiring process is you often do not see a problem until the employee has been with the company for a few months. Ninety days seems to be a magical number where you see good hires turn into ducks. To try and avoid this you should follow-up with new hires on a regular basis to see how their performance is progressing. Another method is to bring on potential new-hires as a contract worker to see how they fit into the job.
Under performing employees are a risk for your department and your company. You should make every effort to turn things around by couching, making sure they know what the expectations are, making sure they are fully trained and made aware of all company and departmental policies.
Deal with issues as they arise and document everything. Try to avoid having duck land in your pond by not hiring them to start with. Be thorough in your hiring process and your training. Make sure all new hires are made aware of their expectations, company and departmental polices. Follow-up with new hires on a regular basis to evaluate their performance.
If after all of your efforts fail, dismissal is the best solution for you, your company and the employee.