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How to deal with short-term bad performance

19 september 2017

Jennifer Cable, a people and talent expert at PA Consulting, is quoted extensively in Ignites Europe’s piece on performance management.

PA’s Jennifer Cable advises that when firms notice there is an issue with short-term underperformance, they should first try to understand what is behind it before deciding to let someone go. If it is a lack of skills then the right training or coaching will help, she says. If it is more about attitude then the problem is “more complicated” and might be a personal issue rather than being office related. “Drilling into the real causes of why someone is struggling is the only way to address it,” Jennifer states. 

Jennifer continues: “Managers should ask themselves if they have had a truly honest conversation with the individual about expectations and the gap with what they are delivering. Many managers shy away from tough conversations, allowing the problem to grow. Effective communication early on can avoid many performance problems getting out of control.”

Jennifer says that the way managers deal with poor performance has a “ripple effect well beyond” the affected employee, which “cannot be ignored”.

“How you deal with poor performance will be carefully scrutinised by the rest of the team, the department and your clients,” she adds.

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Jennifer goes on to talk about how managers need to make a judgment based on the full track record of the individual. “[It pays] to assess the value of [the individual’s] critical skills or contacts and whether you can afford to lose them,” she says.

Management could even go so far as to find another role in the company that might suit the individual better, says Jennifer. But she advises to “be honest” about the assessment. “If the apple is rotten bin it before the blight spreads,” she says.

Another piece of advice is not to repeat the same mistake again. “When recruiting a replacement, think about what you missed last time around. And make sure you do it better this time,” Jennifer adds. “That should include understanding how quickly you can you get a new person in post and get them up to speed.”

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