Dealing with Poor Productivity

Your boss is coming down on you because your team had a significant drop in production compared to previous months and quarters.  This drop in productivity has greatly impacted the performance of the other teams who rely on you and your team to produce.  Besides your boss, your peers and associates are also showing displease with the outcome delivered by your group.  You reviewed the progress and see that your productivity has indeed dropped significantly.  You investigate more and find that the root cause is from one particular member in your team.  You’re under extreme pressure from your superior and your peers, so naturally you have to come down heavily on that member, right?

It can be easy and natural for many managers to go directly down to the individual and just lay into that person what a terrible job has been done and how unacceptable it is.  In fact, it is the tact of many managers and many thrive on the ability to tear into their employees when they don’t perform as expected.  Most of us have witness this and a few have unfortunately been on the receiving end of it.  It’s not a site or experience one would wish to have.

The behavior could be a learned behavior, something that’s been picked up through previous experiences working for other bosses.  It could also be a kneejerk reaction to the stress and pressure that’s been put on by superiors and peers who are just giving the worst evil eyes in the hallways.  The overwhelming pressure to quickly correct the problem could lead managers to react without taking the time to fully think through the situation.

As leaders, we must take a different approach and refrain from slamming down the hammer on an employee who isn’t performing as expected.  When we berate belittle our employees, it’s obvious that they would feel terrible and even worse than they already do for not delivering as they could have.  And “YES”, they are aware that they’re not performing and do already feel terrible about it.  Piling on the misery state they’re already may possibly have a short term outcome of increased productivity.  However, the long term effects are hard to prepare for.  The employee may become a disgruntled employee or just someone who isn’t confident and truly motivated to continue their journey with you.  There’s also no guarantee that the productivity would change for the better.

Rather than making the situation worse for the employee, try practicing a little empathy.  Instead of threatening the employment future of the employee, ask if there’s any trouble the person is having that may have led to the reduced productivity.   I stead of making threats like “If you don’t do your job and produce, you may not be around next month”, try talking to the person.  Try saying “Your productivity has noticeably been down significantly recently.  Are you ok? Is there something going on that I can help you with?”  This opens up the dialog and the opportunity for the person to share the true root cause of the problem.  It will lead to a path that may take longer to resolve the productivity problem.  However, once the problem has been resolved, the solution will last much longer.  Confidence is built and trust is gained, both ways.

That should sound familiar as we talk about building relationship and trust in leadership constantly.  It’s the core of becoming a good leader, having a trusting relationship with your members.  We don’t build good relationships and trusts by putting people down.  We do so by helping prop them up.  Next time you find yourself in a position where you need to talk to your members about poor performance, try not to talk about the performance, but rather what’s causing it and offer your help and support.  It may not have the immediate outcome, but will evolve into a longer lasting relationship.

Photo by: Andreas Klassen

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