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5 Steps to Take When a Poor Performer is On Your Team

ICC July 15, 2019 0 Comments

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5 Steps to Take When a Poor Performer is On Your Team

By: Meredith Masse

You have a poor performer that’s not meeting goals and bringing the team down. What’s the right order of actions to take?


  1. Pinpoint the Cause

As a Kolbe Certified Consultant, I’ve learned we can put most “people” problems that can lead to an individual employee’s poor performance into one of three categories. Less than stellar performance stems from a mismatch in one of these areas:


  • Cognitive Mismatch: the employee has not learned the skills or knowledge to carry out the responsibilities of the role. In short, she/he doesn’t know how to do the job.
  • Affective Mismatch: the employee is not particularly motivated by the role or the organization or has values that differ from those of her/his manager or other leaders. In short, she/he doesn’t buy into the why of the role or the company.
  • Conative Mismatch: the employee’s strengths aren’t being used to their full potential, and the role may require a completely different set of natural talents than the particular employee possesses. In short, her/his innate abilities don’t fit what the role requires, and the employee feels like she/he is swimming against the current every day.


  1. Match the Remedy to the Reason

Once a manager, with the help of an expert HR business partner, diagnoses where the problem lies, there are ways to support an employee in improving performance:

  • Cognitive Realignment: create and offer “sticky” training and development opportunities to support the employee in build necessary skills and knowledge. Supplement training with coaching, strong reinforcement activities and on-the-job application.
  • Affective Realignment: clearly define and communicate the organization’s “why.” Teach managers to connect direct reports’ roles to that purpose and to have effective career path conversations. Conduct values “training.”
  • Conative Realignment: Identify job requirements of the role, then pinpoint the conative strengths of individuals. Put people in roles that need them to do what their brains do best.


  1. Do the Math

When you’ve given a poor performer every opportunity to improve using the ideas above and his/her performance continues to be unacceptable – and everyone else sees it – it’s time to talk about helping that individual find her/his next opportunity. Best companies to work for will do so with humility and compassion.


When an employee is let go for poor performance, many organizations overlook hidden costs that can add up quickly, such as:


  • Lost time due to an “empty seat” on a team
  • Waning productivity of other team members as they pick up more – even if temporarily – responsibilities
  • A tarnished employment reputation
  • Devastated employee morale of other team members seeing their former colleague and friend leave
  • Diminished customer loyalty as a team struggles to keep up with customer demand
  • Potential legal action by the separated employee when there are feelings of wrongful termination


Any one of these, much less a combination, can far outweigh the usual cost-savings predicted of letting someone go.


  1. Save the Day

The good news is you and the employee can experience smoother termination while you improve the remaining employees’ productivity and morale.


Offering Career Transition Services – or outplacement services – to poor performers can significantly reduce your risk, control your costs, and secure your reputation for the future.


A few reasons to offer outplacement services to departing poor performers include:

  • Sustain the morale of and demonstrate goodwill to retained employees
  • Manage former employee’s perception of the company
  • Maintain the company’s reputation in the community and with customers
  • Boost employee referrals from former employees familiar with the work, results and culture
  • Ensure future opportunities with former employees that remain within the industry
  • Mitigate the potential risk of lawsuits or EEO actions
  • Reduce unemployment costs, helping separated employees avoid being among the “long-term unemployed”


We always recommend discussing concerns with your employment attorney. Letting someone go is never easy, yet offering outplacement services can make it a bit easier. You have the support you need during notifications, and the departing employee will benefit from compassionate, personalized coaching focused on quickly finding new opportunities that are a better fit.


  1. Contact ICC

Need a faithful partner in providing local or global outplacement services? Contact ICC, and let’s decide together if our compassionate CoManaged Outplacement Program is a fit for your organization and culture.




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