How do I deal with a loyal employee who is falling behind?
Q I have a very loyal and kind staff member who recently began to fall behind in their work and seems immune to advice. I don't want to let this person go, but how can I make it clear that this behaviour needs to change?
A I wonder what has caused this change in their behaviour? Usually, people's work behaviour changes because something has triggered it. Could they be bored and in the wrong role? Is there something in their personal life that is affecting their work? Did something change in the business around the same time you noticed this behavioural change?
Usually, the best way to challenge these situations is head-on. Start by sitting down with them, remind them that you have spoken to them in the past and be very factual about the drop in performance you have seen. As the conversation progresses, seek their feedback on where this change has come from or what has caused it.
If you find you are not making progress, you will need to be explicitly clear that their performance levels are way below those required by the business and, while you are more than willing to support them, the business cannot afford to carry passengers.
Many business owners find it difficult to be this direct, but the reality is that other staff members will have to make up for the shortfalls in this person's workload and, more importantly, other staff members will be aware of this under-performance and get frustrated that it is not being tackled.
I would also encourage you to put in a formal appraisal system. It should be based on meeting formally with your staff two or three times a year, affording them the opportunity to give feedback on issues that concern them while allowing you the chance to have a structured dialogue about their performance.
While every business owner talks to their staff on a daily basis, all too often I meet entrepreneurs who are so busy running the business that the best they can manage is a conversation in the corridor or on the shop floor, which of course is not an effective way to take or give feedback.