Anytime a business employs people, it will experience some sort of performance issues at least periodically. People are not machines, where a defective part can be identified and replaced and the machine goes right back to producing the exact product as before the part broke. People can be much more complicated.
One of the problems in management is identifying the problem, rather than the symptom of the problem. How do managers know they are addressing a symptom versus the problem causing the behavior? They repeatedly address the issue, and it repeatedly continues to occur. Or the manager has put several individuals in the same position or task and all have failed to successfully perform.
Now the problem is the manager is addressing the symptom, not the problem causing the symptom.
The cause of poor performance can fall into two main categories: the employee won’t do the job or task, or the employee can’t do the job or task. Determining which category the problem falls into will lead to the appropriate tactic for addressing the issue.
Generally the remedies for “can’t do” fall on the employer, so it is useless to discipline the employee. He or she is not able to do the job because of an issue beyond his or her control. Many times employers don’t want to acknowledge this core cause because it involves them providing something that is necessary for the employee to do the job, and that usually involves time and money.
Here are some common issues that fall under the “can’t do” and the “won’t do” categories.
Employees can’t do the job because
1) They were never trained and were hired with the employer knowing that they were not fully competent and would need training. Almost every candidate is told the business that is considering them will provide hands-on training or training opportunities for them to learn and grow.
2) They do not have the materials or equipment to do the job. If the employee needs equipment to produce a product or service, the employer needs to ensure that they have it. Not only do they need the equipment, but it must be functioning and safe.
3) Not enough staff is provided for the work that needs to be done. In restaurants when the business gets swamped, it’s called “in the weeds.” Occasionally every business gets hit with a huge wave of unexpected customers, but if the employees are working at 100% and they still are unable to handle the daily flow of business, a company has several choices. The first is to increase their staffing; the second is to allow staff to work more hours. Another option is to spend money on technology to replace staffing needs, and the fourth option is to keep things as they are and lose disgruntled employees. Lastly, the business can stifle or decrease demand.
4) There is a lack of communication or miscommunication. “No man can serve two masters” is an old saying that is true. Employees cannot take direction from two managers at the same time. For example, an individual setting up a dinner function cannot set tables and peel carrots at the same time. Worse is when no one gives direction to the new employee and then the new employee gets scolded for not doing anything.
5) The job is unsafe. There is a difference between hazardous jobs — those that have some safety issues inherent in the tasks — and a job that becomes unsafe because of employer neglect. In the hazardous jobs the employee is compensated for the hazards in wages and benefits. In the case of employer neglect, it is the employer’s responsibility to remedy the situation.
Now we will look at the “won’t” category, where the employee is given all they need to do the job, but they simply don’t do it.
Employees won’t do the job because
1) They are lazy. The remedy for this is never training because the problem is not that they don’t know; the problem is that they don’t do and, even worse in some cases, don’t care. So often companies waste their training dollars re-training those employees who will never do the job or who will do the job as long as someone is watching them, but the second they are not watched, they revert back to doing nothing.
2) They don’t want to do the job. They simply don’t like the job or feel they’re too good for the job.
To address these situations involves counseling and discipline, up to and including termination. Sometimes employees just were not meant for the job. Selecting the right candidates and providing employees with what they need to do the job is imperative to minimize these issues.
Before addressing a performance issue, managers must always ask themselves, “Is this a ‘can’t do’ or a ‘won’t do’?”