Addressing Performance Issues: Confrontation vs. Clarity

High-performing employees are key to any organization’s success. Yet when employee performance issues arise, addressing them can feel like a confrontation when:

  • Performance management is seen primarily as a punitive measure;
  • Managers are not trained or skilled in handling performance management in a timely and effective way;
  • Managers cannot clearly articulate the performance issue in specific terms with back-up data, documentation, and/or examples; or
  • Managers wait too long to address an issue that could have been addressed sooner and more effectively with more timely intervention.

To minimize this sense of confrontation and instead bring clarity to a performance issue, consider the following:

  • Clearly and specifically define performance expectations and how they will be measured;
  • Provide ongoing, timely, and specific feedback on the employee’s performance;
  • Explain the impact that the performance shortfall is having on the organization;
  • Clearly outline what the employee needs to do to correct the performance issue;
  • Outline what happens if immediate, sustained performance does not materialize; and
  • Seek to build employee ownership, buy-in, and commitment.

Addressing performance issues takes time and effort. However, with a clear perspective, preparation, and skill, managers can address performance issues with greater effectiveness and support for the employee. Well-planned corrective action can be a catalyst for improving performance, developing capabilities, and fostering motivation and commitment.