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Employee Relations

SMU HR Resources

General Causes of Performance Issues

Three general causes of performance problems:

  • Skill deficits
  • Motivational deficits
  • Resource deficits

Skill Deficits – Do they know how to do the job?

Ask these questions:

  • Does the employee have the necessary set of skills to do the job? If not, what skills are they lacking?
  • Has the employee been trained in the skills necessary to do the job? Is there time for training? How can the employee get training?
  • Has the employee been coached about the workplace, culture, and how things are done?
  • Were performance expectations and standards set by the supervisor so that the employee knows what to do? Does the employee know what is expected?
  • Is the communication between the employee and the supervisor clear and complete?

Motivational Deficits – Do they want to do the job?

Ask these questions:

  • Does the employee really want this job?
  • Does the employee’s job utilize his/her strengths, skills, and values and and engage his/her interests? Is the job monotonous and uninteresting? Can the job be redesigned to make it more stimulating?
  • Has the employee been held accountable for meeting specific goals and standards?
  • Has the employee been given regular, effective feedback to sustain or improve performance?
  • Was there a sudden drop in performance that was once moderate to high? Has the employee demonstrated skill in the job before? Is this drop situational (due to a personal problem or change in the employee’s personal life) or a chronic problem that has a pattern of sporadic performance drops? Is it temporary or permanent?

** It is crucial that managers be able to detect personal problems that can undermine performance and know what types of interventions and resources to use in order to retain a normally productive employee.

Resource Deficits – Do they have what they need to do the job?

Ask these questions:

  • Does the pace and lack of variety of the work make employees tired? Can the pace be changed or more diversity of tasks be created?
  • Is the work highly interpersonal in nature with a lot of conflict or confrontation with no break? Does the work require solitude and quiet concentration? Does the workplace provide it? Can it be created?
  • Is the employee managing time resources and priorities effectively? If not, can the employee attend a priority management course to be coached in techniques?
  • Is there just too much work coming their way too fast? How can the systems be streamlined so that they support the work getting done?
  • What additional resources or training can you give the employee to handle the volume so that the employee can be functional and satisfied?
  • Employees will be most successful in performing their jobs when they have all the resources required to do the job properly. Supervisors are responsible for assuring that the employee has all the time, tools, equipment, etc., to complete the job. Removing obstacles is an everyday activity that shows employees that management is serious about its responsibility to provide an environment that fosters success.
  • If someone does not have the equipment needed to do a job, receives conflicting instructions, or if a bad environment or poor working conditions interfere with doing the job, that person will have unnecessary difficulty in performing to a high standard.

Additional questions to ask:

  • Does the employee have all the time, tools, and equipment required to do the job properly?
  • What would prevent the employee from doing the job right if he or she is really tried?
  • Are the instructions specific and understandable?
  • Is the employee receiving conflicting messages?

It is crucial that you engage the employee in developing a full understanding of the issues and then collaborate in creating a plan to address any deficits. In addition, take care to also understand the employee's talents and strengths, since you may be able to build on those to find a solution to any identified issue.