Article (March-2019)


Transforming the non-performing employee

Dr. Prakriti Poddar

Designation : -   Director

Organization : -  Poddar Wellness Ltd. & Managing Trustee of the Poddar Foundation, Mumbai


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Non-performing individuals (or employees) is a term, which is increasingly becoming common in the management of organizations pertaining to people who are having performance issues for a considerable period.

Ask any working professional of any occupation, whether sportsperson, artists, corporate, educational institutions, everyone experiences performance pressures. There are patches in life when despite how much one tries one cannot deliver. Such periods of performance issues can put anyone under tremendous mental and emotional stress, and non-performing individuals can affect the efficiency of the entire team. However, it is important to identify the nonperforming individual correctly.

Identifying Non-performance Individual
The process of identification of a nonperforming individual is of utmost importance. Most of the organizations depend upon teamwork, where individual efforts of a number of people go for a common cause. Depending upon the nature of work, usually the tasks of individuals are quite cut-out. However, there always exists the grey zone wherein responsibilities and accountabilities are shared.

Hence, if the team efficiency and performance is going down, it is important to assess individuals on their profile and identify the right person who is having performance issues. Incorrect identification can not only affect the performing individual but also bring the whole team morale down.

Apart from the work output, behavioural issues such as tardiness, inconsistency, unreliability, malingering, lack of enthusiasm and engagement, no adherence to important company policy or guidelines, signs of depression or isolation, hostility with peers, or workplace conflicts are indicative of such an employee.

Identifying the Root Cause of Problems

It is important for an organization to realize that demotion, change of profiles, termination, position elimination, and disciplinary actions are the easy steps to take against an employee. There are better ways of transforming the nonperforming individuals at workplace. The organization can take the following steps to begin identifying the root cause problem and the role of the reporting manager is the most crucial one in such case.

Begin by Listening. It is important to give confidence to the employee to break the hesitation and share his/her version. This can bring light to a number of aspects, including personal/family challenges, unsuitability/uninterested in the present profile, need training, lack of clarity on expectations, workload issues, and even insights into external influences.

Keep the conversation in confidence. The personal matters of an employee who is confiding in the reporting manager should be kept in confidence. Breach of trust seldom bodes well when matters are personal and emotional in nature.

Assess long-term work habits. Assessing an employee's performance against his track record, and not of the peers, is another step to have a realistic measure of underperformance.

Evaluate workload. Is the employee overworked? While managing a team it is important whether an individual is equipped, enough to manage the workload assigned to him.

Transforming the Nonperforming Individual 

Having identified the challenges, the next step is to attempt a transformation and this is achieved through a combination of psychological and organizational measures.

Psychological Measures

Boosting morale. Expressing personal appreciation on a job well done boosts moral and prevents unnecessary insecurity from creeping in the team, while on team achievements when everyone is praised, most often no one minds an extra line being said for a specific individual. It fosters team harmony.

Becoming a trust worthy leader and being fair. By just becoming a listener and confidante, one can give support and confidence to the employee. Being fair, genuine and reasonable in addressing concerns fosters healthy atmosphere.

Keep the conversation going? Regular meetings, casual talk, close monitoring, and following-up helps the person to feel responsible and committed to meet the expectations.

Monetary incentives do not always work. After a point, money is not a good motivator. Perks, or better, addressing the person's solution is.

Set and manage the right expectations. Overstating benefits may set unreasonable expectations, which if does not materialize leads to disappointment. Like expected of others, promise what can be delivered.
Being a good manager means being a part-time psychologist. A good manager succeeds in work management when he/she is able to manage the human resources best. It is a huge responsibility to psychologically counsel the people reporting to you to ensure healthy atmosphere within the team and organization.

These measures provide good space and healthy ecosystem for an individual back into form. As an organization, it is important to focus upon getting the best out of every resource and not the maximum out of every resource.