Four Causes of Poor Performance and What You Can Do About It

Do you know the most common causes of poor performance and even more important, how to deal with that?

“Identify the problem, understand the causes that created the problem, decide on  a solution and make that solution work.”

Now that’s too generic but how exactly to deal with poor-performance? Poor performance in a workplace is the result of what?

In other words, what are the primary causes of poor-performance at the workplace?

It could be one or more of the following:

  1. Ineffective leadership
  2. Wrong people in the wrong place
  3. Inadequate work-systems and processes
  4. Individual’s incapabilities

(Photo Credit: 1Happysnapper’s Flickr photostream)

Let’s have a look at Four Causes of Poor Performance in little more detail:

1. Ineffective Leadership

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

When the team is not performing at its best, it is the leader who is questioned. He has a greater responsibility than everyone else. That is to bring the BEST out of all the team members working with him.

To do that, he has to identify the right resource, ensure his or her availability, make the expectations crystal clear and inspect what he expects. Like it or not, when the team members do not understand the expectations, their leader gets the blame.

So leader has to consciously retrospect each of his actions and be ready to lead from the front. He also has to assure that right kind of organizational culture is built. If the organization culture is like such where it is okay to procrastinate, the team would shape itself accordingly.

Once the leader starts influencing the team, the team will put their best and the overall performance will get better. Easier said than done.

2. Wrong people in the wrong place

People should feel good about the work they are doing but that’s not always the case.

Some people are in the wrong job and don’t do anything about that because they like the privileges of the job. A project manager might be the “CEO” of the project for the organization but has no real interest in actually get the project delivered. Some are stuck in a job they don’t like because they can’t get anything better suited to them. Maybe because of a lack of the skills, or most common, the initiative.

Some people engage in the wrong job just because it is a family business!

Reasons can be millions but the bottom-line is, it should be ensured that the right person is doing the right job. An effective leader ensures that it happens.

3. Work-systems and processes

People don’t often understand their organization type even though they always want to perform at their best. There are two major types of organizations:

1. Organizations where hardcore execution is worshiped
2. Organizations where processes are worshiped

Both types of organizations are right in their own perspectives. Especially many start-ups focus more on execution than processes.

Often it is seen that organization’s website lists “100% customer service” as one of their core values but when an employee leads beyond her title and does something beyond what is stated in the process manual, she hears the music.

Believing in something and doing something else is very common and it must be eliminated if performance improvement is the goal.

Key is to set the expectation right and spell out what kind of behavior is “expected” behavior in the organization. Then architect the reward systems in a way it inspires people to do more of the expected behavior.

4. Individual’s incapabilities

If everything else is right then there is a possibility that the individual is not capable enough to perform as expected. It could be either skill problem (do not have the capabilities) or will problem (do not want to do it).

Skill problems are comparatively easier to deal with. With targeted skill-enhancement programs, mentorship etc. are the tools used to solve the skill problems. This may or may not be affordable to an organization.

Will problems are not so easier to deal with. First of all, it should be found that the “will” problem exists. Once it is there, the core reason for that has to be found. Work culture, family issues, relationships with colleagues…so many foxes to catch.

Once the right problem is discovered, it should be dealt with the best possible way. Extremes such as letting people go because of skill or will problems are also seen often.

Seven Steps to Deal With Poor Performance

  1. Recognize a performance as a “poor” performance.
  2. Ascertain the basis of poor performance.
  3. Get buy-in on the required actions/changes.
  4. Ensure that poor-performer is supported by additional resources, training, coaching, mentoring etc.
  5. Inspect what you expect and provide as much feedback as you can during the evaluation period.
  6. Equip the poor-performer with additional guidance as an when required.
  7. If nothing works, invoke a disciplinary procedure like PIP (performance improvement plan).

The solution to any problem begins with identifying that a problem exists. Once identified, it has to be accepted as a “qualified problem”. Once these things are done, right actions should be your key weapon to deal with that.

So the identification of what causes poor performance is the key. It would enable you to take your management actions effectively. If you have tips or experiences to share about this, you are most welcome to drop a comment below.