How to Handle Poor Employee Performance Constructively: 3 Proven Methods
How to Manage a Lazy Employee
Managing a lazy or unproductive employee can be far more challenging than expected. Foremost, it’s important to talk to your employee and try to identify the reason for a lack of effort or enthusiasm. There are a few helpful steps you can take to get employees back on track. Finally, there are some important things to remember that will help you manage a lazy employee with professionalism and class.
Talking to Your Employee About Their Productivity
Address the employee verbally.Don’t allow an employee's laziness or lack of enthusiasm to become a recurring issue. Tell the employee you’re hoping to speak with them about workplace expectations and performance, and schedule a time to sit down together. Your conversation will likely prove helpful in identifying the cause for the employee’s waning work ethic.
- For instance, “I’ve noticed a decline in your effort and I want to make sure you’ll be able to keep up with your responsibilities moving forward. Can we set up a time to meet and talk about it?”
Be direct, but polite.Make sure you don’t come across as accusatory by acknowledging that everyone’s productivity fluctuates. Say something like, “I understand that there may be factors I’m not aware of. Is there something going on I should know about?”
- If there is something going on outside of work, ask the employee whether you can help, and what they’re planning to do. Personal issues arise for everyone, and you should be understanding of that, though you also deserve to know when an employee is struggling with something that affects their ability to work.
Review responsibilities.Sometimes, simply sitting down with an employee and talking about what is expected of them is enough to motivate them to get back on track. A good way to go about this is reminding an employee of their role, and pointing out how the business is affected when they don’t meet the responsibilities associated with that role.
- For instance, mention something like, “When there’s a drop in production in your department, Jeff isn’t able to meet his quotas. We need everyone to stay on task in order to keep this business running smoothly.”
Avoid assuming an employee is lazy.Sometimes, managers mistakenly assume an employee is lazy, when the employee may simply require further guidance. Specifying priorities for their position may immediately lead to greater productivity.
- For instance, productivity issues are sometimes the fault of mistaken priorities. Your employee may simply be spending too much time doing minor, unimportant tasks.
- Additionally, it's important to have realistic expectations of your employees. Often, managers will sometimes compare their employees performance to their own, which is not necessarily fair.
Offer ideas to measure accountability.Most people's attention wanes at some point during the day, and this is even more likely if no one else is monitoring their productivity regularly. Establish a method of accountability that might help keep the employee on task without having to actively monitor them.
- Deadlines are perhaps the most common measurement of productivity. If your employee isn’t working within clear, specific deadlines, assign certain tasks or projects to be completed by a certain day.
- Similarly, you could assign a series of tasks, or benchmarks, or be accomplished each shift.
Articulate clear consequences.Hopefully, clarifying expectations and accountability mechanisms will help get your employee back in the saddle. However, it is worth mentioning that there may be repercussions for continued laziness. Articulate these repercussions in advance (ideally by referencing the employee manual), so it is clear that changes in the employee’s behavior need to occur or there will be concrete consequences.
- For instance, say something like, “It sounds like we agree that these expectations are fair. Let’s check in with each again in a few weeks, with the understanding that if your performance hasn’t changed, I may have to reduce your hours.”
Motivating Lackluster Employees
Assign tasks you know they’ll enjoy.One of the most common factors that causes laziness is boredom. Though it seems counter-intuitive, an employee may be putting in less effort because they aren’t feeling stimulated. Get them excited about their job again by assigning tasks they’ve conveyed interest in, or that will challenge them in a different way.
- An employee that seems to be wasting time may simply be getting what they need to do done quickly, and may even be ready for greater responsibilities.
Offer incentives for increased performance.If you’re generally happy with one of your employees but you know they could be getting more done, consider offering performance-based incentives to work harder. For instance, offer a slightly higher commission on sales beyond their regular quota, or a longer daily lunch break if they can get more done each morning.
Don’t do their work for them.Maybe you have an employee who does their work, but never quite to the level of quality you’re hoping for. Don’t jump in and finish a task or tweak it to meet your standards. Point out the difference between what they’re doing and what needs to be done, and show them how to they can improve. If it helps, think of yourself as a coach, as opposed to the clean-up crew.
- Say something like, “Andrew, I’m glad to see you’ve kept up with this week’s assignments. I noticed a recurring roughness in your finished product though. Take the time to sand each piece thoroughly and they’ll be coming out beautifully.”
Document poor behavior.If you have an employee that always has an excuse, or aren’t able to continually monitor all of your employees, it’s worth keeping a record of their performance. Most importantly, this will enable to you to clearly and definitively show an employee any recurring issues with their performance.
- Things like tardiness should always be recorded. Additionally, take note when you or someone else has to re-do work that an employee didn’t complete sufficiently, or any incidents in which you have to speak with an employee about behavior or performance.
Be strict about schedules.Schedules are the type of accountability measuring stick that are the easiest (and arguably the most important) to enforce. While you may want to be relaxed about certain things, maintain a strict position regarding deadlines.
- Standardized time frames - such as a week to complete a certain task - work especially well. By assigning the same sorts of things to multiple employees with the same time frames, you can identify issues with productivity fairly and concretely.
- When deadlines aren’t met, and there isn’t a good reason (sometimes there is - but deadlines shouldn’t be missed consistently), there need to be repercussions. State them beforehand, in the interest of clarity and fairness.
Don’t talk about it with other employees.This one is pretty straightforward. One employee’s productivity is not your other co-workers’ business. If an employee’s laziness is affecting others’ working environment, they already know about it. It’s in everyone’s best interest to address the employee directly.
- Further, gossip and complaints are unprofessional, and can lead to misunderstandings, and even conflict.
- If you need to talk to another employee about a certain employee’s productivity, preface the conversation by saying something like, “I was hoping I could ask you some questions as your manager, and that you might be able to give me some neutral, objective insights and keep this conversation between us.”
Let employees go when you need to.Firing people can be one of the worst parts about managing other people. That said, if an employee is intentionally and consciously avoiding things they are responsible for, it may be time to let them go. Even if you have developed a personal relationship with them, remind yourself that your own and others’ livelihoods - and workplace comfort - are undermined by an employee that is not willing to pull their weight.
Video: Tired of your lazy coworker? Here are five ways to fix it.
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