Three Steps to Identify and Address Poor Team Member Performance

Three Steps to Identify and Address Poor
Team Member Performance

Project managers encounter team member performance problems all the time. In many cases you don’t feel like you have the authority to address these situations. However, usually you do have some options. You can at least better understand the nature of the performance problem. Depending on the severity of the problem you might also be able to address it.

Step 1. Gather the Facts – and examples

The first step is to collect facts that help you understand the nature of the performance problem. You should write down instances where the performance did not meet your expectations. You will need these examples to start a performance discussion. They should not be hard to gather. You would not be trying to resolve a performance problem if there were not specific instances to you can document.

Step 2. Have a preliminary discussion

Once the factual examples are ready, the second step is to have a preliminary performance discussion. This discussion will make the employee aware of the perceived performance problem. You will also get the employee’s feedback and response.

In many cases, the manager jumps to the conclusion that there is a performance problem, pure and simple.  However, there may be other reasons why the employee’s performance may not be up to expectations. For example, the performance problem may be the result of a skill gap. The problem could be caused by competing non-project work. The problem could be caused by a personality conflict. You need some insight into the nature of the problem before you can move head to resolution.

Step 3. Create an action plan for improvement

Once the projects manager and team member discuss the situation, he will be able to create the right action plan. Perhaps just bringing the performance perception to the team member’s attention will help to resolve the situation. The short-term plan may require work from both the manager and employee. The plan should also include a time to get back together again for a progress report. It is important to get back together to determine whether there has been any improvement in performance.  If there has been, then perhaps the situation just needs to be monitored from that point. 

As a project manager you have some ability to provide performance feedback when work is not up to your expectations. However, you do not have total control. If your preliminary three-step approach does not work, or if the team member is resistance to working with you, you will need to get the person’s functional manager involved and address the situation through a more formal performance management processes.