Poor performers reduce engagement across the board

2006

Failing to deal effectively with employees who are consistently poor performers can decrease the engagement levels of other staff members, a new U.S survey has found.

Just four out of 10 employees (but slightly more managers) who felt their companies were doing too little to correct poor employee performance were nevertheless favourably engaged at work, the study by Sirota Survey Intelligence found.

The poll of 34,330 employees also reported a favourable engagement rate of 73 per cent among those who felt their company was taking the necessary steps to correct employee performance.

Worryingly, a total of 33 per cent of management and 43 per cent of non-management employees thought their organisations were not doing enough to deal with poor performers.

A significant proportion of both also felt there was too little emphasis on dealing with poor performance, with a higher proportion of non-managers feeling this way.

"A very small percentage of employees at a typical workplace, usually around only 5 per cent, are 'allergic' to work, and do as little as they possibly can," said lead author David Sirota.

A very small percentage of employees at a typical workplace are allergic to work

"The main reason they get away with this is the lack of management's will and persistence in stepping up to the problem.

"Management needs either to help employees understand they must pull their own weight and coach them to improve, or let them go. This is an unpleasant task that many managers choose to avoid," he added.

Many non-managers felt that failure effectively to deal with poor performers was unfair to those who consistently worked hard, and so coloured their view of the organisation.

"Companies should distinguish between employees who don't want to work and those who do, but whose performance is poor," said Sirota.

"The latter may require additional training and coaching. In addition, don't assume employees are interested only in receiving praise for what they do well, and resent hearing about areas in need of improvement," he continued.

Comments about areas that need improvement needed to be specific and factual, rather than evaluative, and directed at the situation rather than the person, he advised.

"Feedback needs to be limited to those aspects of employee behaviour that relates to performance. When giving performance feedback, always encourage two-way communication," he concluded.

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