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Seven Common Reasons for Employee’s Low Performance

Employee Low Performance

Corporates monitor the performance of their employees searching for high and low performance. When  managers find a decrease in performance of an employee, they have multiple options to react:

  • The short cut: the easiest way is to blame the employee for the low performance. A warning, a punishment, or even a decision to fire the employee may follow that blame.
  • The right way: The correct action when managers detects a decrease in performance, for one or multiple employee, is analyze the reasons behind it. Then, they take actions accordingly.

I have been working in corporate life for about 18 years. Sometimes, employees deserve the blame. However, I have seen many cases where employees are blamed while the actual fault is not theirs. Moreover, I saw employees who were accused of low performance. They moved from a job to another and then, they did shine and impressed everyone.

Therefore, before jumping to blame employees for their performance, just think about the real reasons. Here below, I listed seven common reasons that may cause a low performance. This list is for managers who are not willing to follow the easy short-cut way. But first, what do we mean by Low Performance?

What Low Performance means

There is no fixed definition. Generally, it can mean any of the below:

  • Employee fails to achieve the organization goals.
  • Employee achieves the goals but without the expected quality.
  • Employee fail to meet the manager’s expectation.

exact definition may vary from location to another.

Now, let us list the common reasons behind a low performance:

Not the suitable job

Employee Low Performance - Suitable

A famous quote says, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein.

People are different. Some of us are good in science and technology while others are good in sports, arts, or other fields. We complete each other so that the life goes on. If we were the same, the life would be impossible. Therefore, we all win when everyone in life plays the role fitting his own skills and talents.

The same concept is valid for employees inside one company. Some employees are detailed-oriented while others can see the big picture. Some are hard workers while others are creative and innovative. Moreover, some are sellers by nature while others are technical savvy. Accordingly, each one should have a different role and different evaluation criteria.

The smart manager puts right employee in the right place before judging the output performance.

Lack of Internal Marketing

Employee Low Performance -Marketing

Sometimes, employees do tasks that they are not convinced with, just because that is the management decision. Meanwhile, the management does not care about marketing their decisions among employees.

Therefore, from employee’s perspective, that is a stupid decision. However, he has to do it anyway. Once after another, the employee loses the passion about the job, which may lead to a decrease in performance.

That is why many articles shows the difference between the Boss and the Leaders. One of the differences is that a Boss just gives orders while the leader ensures the involvement of his team.

Because the increasing awareness about passion and performance, we see studies about “Employee Engagement”, the term which reflects how to motivate the employee and ensure his commitment to organization’s goals and values.

You may read Your employees are you first customer.

Lack of Acknowledgment

Employee Low Performance - AcknowledgementImagine a case when an employee that is working hard, making success stories. However, the success credit goes to others. However, at any mistake, the blame goes only to that employee, not those others.

Imagine another case when two employee are working hard. However, one of them is ignored while other highly rewarded for some unclear internal political reasons.

Imagine another employee who tries to take an extra mile. He sends new ideas and suggestions to improve the whole organization’s performance. He is even ambitious enough to start applies his ideas inside his circle. However, all the new ideas from all employees are ignored (Only top management ideas will prevail). Later on, one of the top management got similar ideas and started the implementation. All credits went to the manager.

At any of these above scenarios, what is the level of performance do you expect from the employee?!

You may read 7 concepts creating a better working environment.

Mental Exhaustion

Employee Low Performance - Pressure

Sometimes, corporate life adds loads of pressure over the employees. Each employee is continuously requested to prove himself/herself for the management and show that they deserve the next promotion, or at least to secure the existing positions. Once promoted, the pressure continues to prove himself/herself in the new position. If the employees moved from organization to another, there is the pressure to prove himself/herself for the management in the new organization. Even the top managers and CEOs have to prove themselves to the board.

That continuous pressure causes mental exhaustion. Therefore, employees have to take vacations and relax. Otherwise, they will not be able to continue with the same performance levels. Some organizations insist that their employees take vacation.

Fear of mistakes

Employee Low Performance - Mistakes

We have fallen many times before successfully riding the bike.

We learn by mistakes. And that is how we develop our Experience. Look at the first novel of a famous writers, the first design of a famous architect, the first match of a famous player. Beginnings are not perfect but with each mistake, we learn, improve and develop a better version of ourselves. That is what humans do.

Smart organizations allow a reasonable margin of making mistakes. That margin varies according to the criticality of the job (must be zero margin for specific jobs) and the experience of the employees.

On the other hands, some organizations builds the “Feat of Mistakes” among their employees by applying painful penalties for every minor mistake. When Fear of mistakes is a common culture, employees try to avoid taking initiatives or the responsibility of new decisions just to stay safe. Accordingly, performances will decrease because the target changed from doing the task perfectly to just doing the task safely.

You may read Successful companies have no hot potatoes.

Lack of Training

Employee Low Performance - Training

Maybe he was not trained for that!

Each new employee requires at least a basic orientation about the responsibilities of his position. That includes setting the mutual expectation level between the organization and employee. This orientation is mandatory. Sometimes, further training sessions are required.

Then the organization has two options:

  • Either they provide coaching to the new employee. That is when the new employees starts doing his tasks under a close supervision and guidance from an experienced colleague for a specific duration.
  • Throw him in the sea and let him learn swimming by his own. In other words, the new employee starts just starts his position without guidance and let him learn from his own mistake (as in previous point). This requires allowing a larger margin for mistakes.

Moreover, in some jobs where there is a rapid change due to technology advances, further training plans are needed to keep the employees up to date.

If that all does not exist, then blaming the employee for low performance is not meaningful.

Hidden evaluation criteria

Employee Low Performance - Evaluate

Sometimes, the organization doesn’t have a clear evaluation criteria although they have an official one.

In other words, there maybe a formal evaluation criteria. However, the actual evaluation is according to own judgment of the manager.

Many of these organizations suffer from high levels of hypocrisy. Accordingly, in such organizations, you can not judge the actual performance of employee. Only his hypocrisy level.

Employee’s Responsibility

Employee Low Performance - Responsible

If you are sure that the organization is doing well at all the above points, then you may consider the employee’s responsibility for the performance. As an additional step, it is good to detect if the low performance is a continuous trend or just a temporary thing. The more you analyze, the better actions you take.

A writer & GIS consultant … Studied the Management of Technology … dreaming with a better world.