Performance Symptoms vs. Performance Problems

Consider the following scenario:

A long-time employee arrives 30 minutes late for work three days in a row.  And, when questioned about this, he snaps “none of your business!”  You also notice that over the past month or so his work has really not been up to standards.  So do you have a performance problem?

Your immediate answer is probably “of course I have a performance problem!”  But what you really have is a series of performance symptoms:

  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Poor quality work.

The underlying performance problem, the cause of these behaviors, could be any number of things, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot.  Consider that the employee might:

  • Have recently learned of the terminal illness of a loved one.
  • Be struggling with financial issues that are distracting from focus on work.
  • Feel (rightly or wrongly) that his work load has stretched him far beyond capacity.

You may be hesitant to engage him in a conversation about your observations.  But consider the cost and consequences of not doing so.  Just like a doctor who examines the patient with a fever (symptom) and decides on a diagnosis (problem) in order to prescribe the correct treatment, your task is to get to the underlying issue in order to develop a fair and appropriate solution.  Ideally this solution will maintain the dignity of the employee while meeting your needs for improved performance.  How to have that conversation will be the topic of a future blog post.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

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