Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.
Something's going on with Miranda. She's always been a stellar employee who was able to juggle multiple projects at one time and never miss a deadline, but her productivity has fallen off drastically in the past month. Lately, she seems disconnected and distracted, committing small errors and showing up late to work. Yesterday, she missed a deadline entirely.
So, what's happening? Why isn't Miranda doing what she's supposed to do? Not surprisingly, the culprit may stem from any number of areas. After sitting down and talking through it, you learn there is a significant health problem at home that is spilling over into Miranda's work.
Employee performance problems may not always be related to personal issues. Sometimes there are issues at work that are contributing to poor employee performance. In this lesson, we'll take a look at some common problems and obstacles that can stand in the way of superior employee performance.
Performance Problems & Obstacles
You've seen it before: employees who have a difficult time prioritizing tasks, who have excessive absenteeism for no discernible reason, or who respond slowly to project requests. The work they produce may fail to meet the quality of previous assignments, or they may miss deadlines altogether. For managers, it can be frustrating to observe performance problems and not understand why they're occurring. Just like each employee is different, so too are the obstacles that present themselves that may be causing work performance issues. It is important to drill down and understand these obstacles in order to correct them. Here are a few you may see most frequently:
- Lack of skill or training: Performance problems may present themselves when employees are lacking in skills or training necessary to satisfactorily perform the requirements of their job.
- Poor communication: Employees may suffer when communication suffers. It may be a lack of clarity about job requirements, unclear direction about projects or assignments, or even a lack of feedback so employees know how to proceed.
- Personal problems: Perhaps the most common obstacle to workplace performance is the presence of personal problems. It could be health issues with children or a spouse, financial problems, or any number of other issues an employee is dealing with when they leave the office.
- Unrealistic expectations: Managers must ask themselves if unrealistic expectations are causing employees to perform poorly. There may be too much on an employee's plate, or unattainable goals may be set that prompt a backlash.
- Lack of understanding: Sometimes employees' problems are simply a result of not understanding the ''why'' behind a particular assignment. You may not feel the need to explain every time, but getting an employee on the same page can foster better work performance.
- Bad attitude: At every worksite, there's at least one employee whose attitude may be causing his/her own problems or the problems of someone else. The employee may even think there is a better way of doing the job than how he/she was instructed.
- Out-of-whack rewards or consequences: If you've ever been in a meeting where an idea put forth was subsequently given to the person making the suggestion, you've seen this one in action. Employees may be punished for doing a great job by being given more work. On the other side, problem employees may continue to cause issues without repercussion. Failing to administer rewards or recognition can also cause problems.
- Workplace problems: Whether it's an overwhelming workload, lack of appropriate resources to do a job correctly, or a workplace bully who is harassing co-workers, performance can be impacted from a number of workplace-related culprits.
- Management style: Management style can also be an obstacle to employee performance. Employees may feel bullied or micro-managed and may rebel in the only way they can - performing poorly.
How to Overcome Performance Issues
Dealing with performance issues and confronting the obstacles that cause them can be a challenge for any manager or leader. Some of the issues and obstacles may be easy to spot, while others can be more hidden.
- Address what needs to be addressed. Ignoring performance problems will only ensure they continue. Schedule a meeting to talk to the employee about the specific performance issue and what may be behind it.
- Define clear consequences for performance problems. Whether it's additional training for employees struggling with a skill set or unpaid leave for those with insubordinate behavioral problems, clearly-defined consequences that are enforced can help correct performance problems.
- Implement workplace coaching. Working with a coach can help the struggling employee develop an action plan for correcting problem areas and achieving success.
- Communicate. Maintaining clear channels for communication between management and employees can help thwart performance problems. Be clear in instructions and objectives and allow employees to voice concerns or ask questions.
- Make workplace changes. Some of the obstacles previously identified are the result of a less-than-optimal work environment. If employees need additional resources, provide them. If expectations are unrealistic, reassess them.
- Remember reinforcements. It may be follow-up on an action plan for correcting the performance problem or recognizing achievements with positive feedback. Proper follow-up, whether praising or offering constructive criticism, can help eliminate employee performance issues.
Employee performance problems may manifest in the form of decreased productivity, difficulty prioritizing tasks, committing errors in projects, or missing deadlines. The obstacles involved in these performance problems are as varied as the employees you have. One of the most common obstacles includes personal problems, such as health or financial issues at home. Other obstacles include lack of consequences, poor communication, bad management style, or lack of appropriate skills or training. To combat these issues, managers must reach into their toolbox and come up with solutions to turn performance issues around. That might mean addressing problems with employees in a scheduled meeting, clearly defining consequences for performance issues, or making necessary workplace changes to create a better working environment.
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