by Paul Casey

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How to Help a Struggling Employee

a leader helping a struggling employee

April 16, 2022 | Originally posted June 7, 2017

On every team, at one time or another, there is a person lagging behind the pack. The reason they are struggling could be related to a variety of problems. Issues outside of work, problems inside the team or the company, or maybe even a lack of training could be the cause. Whether you are the manager, supervisor, or team leader it’s your job to do what you can to help them take charge of raising their performance.

By dedicating some time to this employee in some specific ways, you will learn more about them, and their needs and eventually get them back on the road to success. Here are a few suggestions you can try to help an employee who is struggling:

Get them a coach.

Whether this coach is within the organization or from the outside, a coach can quickly drill-down to discover where the stuck points are and help outline a path for the employee to grow forward. Coaches help the employee process situations from the past week so that future interactions have the potential to get better results for all involved.

Make your expectations clear.

Schedule a time to discuss exactly what standards the employee must abide by and what results he/she must produce daily/weekly. Get these documented in writing. Often, this step is part of a performance improvement plan (PIP). A PIP declares what the employee must change in order to stay employed at your organization.

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Give them extra face-time for a while.

Often, struggling employees seek to “hide” from leaders so as to not expose their weaknesses or shortcomings.  When you suspect this is happening, get alongside them with extra accountability sessions that force them to report on their progress on established expectations. While you cannot (and should not) schedule too many one-to-ones, this extra offer of assistance is usually very helpful. Giving a struggling employee this kind of attention will also reveal if they are heading in the right direction, or on their way out. Confront any breeches of the PIP immediately.

Get them specific training in their weakest areas.

Maybe it’s communication skills, conflict resolution, or a technical skill that needs remediation for this employee to get up to par. Invest in them and require them to report on what was learned and how he/she will apply the continuing education at work from here forward.  It often sticks even more if they are asked to teach the content to other team members.

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Praise efforts that move them in the right direction.

While you might be tempted to only look to confirm the employee’s miscues aren’t a fit for your organization, seeking to validate expectations that are met usually produces more wins. What you reward, increases.

Determine if it’s a better fit to stay or go.

A come-to-Jesus discussion is necessary when you begin to notice the following.

  • It seems apparent that the employee has not bought into the mission/vision and teamwork necessary for everyone to win.
  • The patterns that are hurting the team or making people work around the employee continue and don’t improve.

In either case, it is time to shoot straight and decide if parting ways might actually be a long-term blessing for the employee and the team, despite the awkwardness of a resignation/dismissal right now. 

Conclusion

Before getting an itchy trigger finger to fire a low-performing employee, go the extra mile to see if they’ll turn the corner and if together you can Grow Forward. Contact me if you want to grow to the next level in your leadership.

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