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They’re so lazy! 5 ways to help slackers on staff become better performers

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Some employees aim low – and do just enough to hit their mark.

They’re under-performers and they’re the bane of most managers’ existence.

Slackers on staff suck the energy out of their colleagues, too — often leading to resentment and team dysfunction.

How many slackers on staff?

By some estimates, 10% of employees are under-performers. What’s worse, managers spend almost 20% of their time – that’s one day a week – handling slackers, a Robert Half study found.

Under-performing isn’t just a time-sucking problem. Companies lose money: More than 25% of businesses pay bonuses to under-performers, a Towers Watson survey revealed.

Helping under-performers do better will save time and money. So how do you take an under-performer to the ranks of an adequate employee?

These ideas will help get your lowest performing employees to step up and contribute.

Be realistic

First, be realistic: Very few low-performers will become top-performers. They aren’t wired to do much more than the minimum.

But that’s OK. Every employer needs people who show up, do their jobs and make the day-to-day things happen.

Consider what your slackers are capable of and set the bar around there — slightly above what they’re doing now and little below what you’d expect.

Seriously lay it on the line

Most under-performers have not stuck their heads in the sand. They’re aware that they don’t do as well as others.

But some managers don’t lay it on the line because … well, it’s uncomfortable to discuss.

One of the most important things managers can do to help under-performers improve is be honest: Show them where they stand against the team, how it affects everyone and how they must improve.

You don’t need to name names, but do show them where they stand in performance against others doing the same work. You might create a graph showing quality or quantity goals met. Or use a chart to show the percentage of work produced or goals achieved across department employees, pointing to the slacker’s low rank.

Reduce tolerance

Employees who struggle to perform well often turn into deliberate slackers because they and those around them start to tolerate the shortcomings – maybe chalking it up to, “that’s just the way he is.”

But managers don’t want to leave any wiggle room when working with under-performers.

Small setbacks or just coming shy of a goal or expectation may not seem like a big deal on the surface. But if those are tolerated, low-performers will continue to fall on their bad habits.

If you must, create consequences that mean something to slackers for missing goals. That might include losing the flexible work privileges or the ability to choose schedules.

Encourage realistically

All employees need a boss who motivates and inspires them. While it usually takes a special effort to inspire under-performers, they still crave it.

Managers want to keep conversations positive, focusing on what low-performers can do, and how they can translate those skills and wins into other areas of their workload. For instance, if a low performer misses deadlines, but seldom has errors, help her identify ways to channel that attention to detail into sensible time-management techniques.

Communicate fairly

When employees fail to meet expectations, managers sometimes cast them as people who can’t contribute. Then they unintentionally share less information and solicit fewer opinions.

To build better relationships with and improve the performance of slackers on staff:

  • share information equally
  • invite their opinions, and
  • wait for, listen to and act on feedback.

Schedule regular time to do those three things with low-performers. It helps build their confidence, which they often lack and gives you time to uncover and understand what’s holding them back.

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