Every employer faces the dilemma of handling an employee who is not performing, or letting the side down. Employers frequently respond to employee non-performance by turning to disciplinary action, performance management or reviews to address the problem.

The tendency of employers to discipline and performance manage, which is a common response of many employers, suggests that employers choose to conclude that non-performance is as a result of wilful non-compliance. Management spends too little time getting to the actual reason for employee non-performance.

Several theories have highlighted a variety of reasons for employee non-performance, yet all included the same basic reasons.

The two main reasons for employee non-performance include employees not knowing why they should be doing what they are expected to do, in other words, what would be the consequences for the company if the task is not carried out. For example, if the telephone is not answered immediately, the company may lose a potential sale.

The other is making sure the employee clearly understands what the consequences of non-performance for him or herself will be, which may include disciplinary action, demotion etc.

Other reasons for employee non-performance highlighted by Stevens (2007) include:

  • The employer failing to set clear objectives and timeframes for the employee. The employee is not certain of what he or she is required to achieve and by when.
  • The employer failing to make sure that the employee has the required skills set.
  • Accountability for poor performance is not enforced.
  • Employees are not rewarded or recognised for good performance and lacks the motivation to perform optimally again.
  • Performance is obstructed by inefficient processes, i.e. the processes and policies are not conducive to efficient implementation.
  • Employers require work which does not address the employee’s need for challenges or being creative. The employee lacks motivation to perform optimally.
  • Employee personal problems of which management may not be aware, may hamper the efficient execution of their duties, for example, an employee may be late consistently because he or she needs to drop young children off at school before catching public transport to work.
  • Lack of awareness or understanding of the vision management hold for their organisation.

Stevens’ (2007) list of core reasons for non-performance is mirrored in some of the core reasons identified by Harden (2007). He includes wilful non-compliance, which the employer has little recourse to correct.

According to Fournies (1999) poor handling of non-performance lies mostly with managers who have not managed the employee successfully, failing to identify hindrances to work performance, and therefore failing to resolve them.

Management is accountable for making sure that the employee agrees with and understands that he or she is not performing to standard. Employers often fail to work with the employee to identify the reasons for non-performance taking for granted that the reasons for the employee having failed at the key performance areas lies with the employee.

Management is often tardy about providing feedback to non-performing employees. McLaughlin (2007), suggests that the reason for this may lie with management’s lack of skills in providing effective feedback and thus avoiding this exercise.

If wilful non-performance is the problem, management has the responsibility of addressing it timeously and to clearly delineate and carry through the consequences for the behaviour.

Poor performance can therefore find its source in the employee or work environment and it is up to the employer to identify and address the source of non-performance expeditiously.

List of Sources

Fournies, F., 1999, Coaching for improved work performance, New York: McGraw Hill
Fournies F., 1999, Why employees don’t do what you want them to do and what to do. New York:McGraw Hill
Harden, S., 2007 http://www.saferpatients.com/Employee%20Article.pdf
McLaughlin, P., 2007 http://www.detroitchamber.com/detroiter/articles.asp?cid=103&detcid=687
Stevens D., 2007 http://ezinearticles.com/?Reasons-for-Employee-NonPerformance&id=812061