Going Deeper: Analyzing Non-Performance

Let’s say that Kronin is one of your employees whose performance has slipped badly in the last few months. He shows up late and leaves early. He calls in sick. He knows his way around the Internet better than he knows his way through his daily To do list.

Be honest. When you think of Kronin, what do you say to yourself (or others) about him? What names do you call him?


That’s what I called Kronin when he was my employee. I called him that—and worse.

The problem is that, once you slap a label on someone, you start treating him or her that way. You may not do it consciously, but you do. And that label is sticky. It’s very hard to remove.

Instead of trying to find out why Kronin is underperforming, we ignore him, hoping he’ll request a transfer or maybe even quit. We bad-mouth him to others. When we’re feeling managerial, we might give him a bit of feedback, which seems to help for a while, but soon he reverts back to being Slackerloserlazyjerk. We throw up our hands and throw in the towel.

There is a better way.

Here is a five-step process to help you work through a performance issue:

What’s the difference between the desired performance (based on performance objectives) and the actual? If you’ve set SMART objectives (see blog post 12/15/09), you should have a clear picture of where Kronin has gone off track.

What are the possible causes for the discrepancy? Carefully consider all possibilities.

  • Is it a lack of skills or knowledge? Are you sure Kronin knows how to do his job?
  • Is it a lack of motivation? As manager, am I misreading what motivates Kronin? Motivation is a big topic, one that will be covered in future posts, but for now, ask yourself: Is he cast in the right role? Does he know how he contributes to the organization? Does he have the equipment and supplies to do his job right? Does he know what’s expected of him in clear and measurable terms? How does he like to work? (outgoing vs. reserved, task-oriented vs. people-oriented) Is he able to do what he’s good at?
  • Is it a lack of talent? Does Kronin lack the innate ability to do the job?
  • Is there something about the environment that inhibits performance? Is there something about the organization (structure, culture, mood, politics) that’s getting in Kronin’s way?
  • Is there something about me, as manager, that is getting in the way? What have I done to cause Kronin’s poor performance? This is the hardest question of all. It’s scary to face ourselves in the mirror, yet often (as was the case with me), that’s where the answer lies. In my case, I had to admit that, because I had written Kronin off as a Slackerloserlazyjerk, I stopped managing him. I never stopped to consider what motivated him to work to his potential. I didn’t have a clue as to his strengths and talents. What little feedback I’d given him was poorly done. I had to admit that it was easier to write him off than to do something about it.

What actions can I take to eliminate the discrepancy?

  • If it’s a lack of knowledge or skills, provide training. That’s a fairly easy fix, yes?
  • If it’s a lack of motivation, determine appropriate drivers (see above).
  • If it’s a lack of talent, determine course of action (devise a support system; find a complementary partner; seek an alternative role).

How will the solutions be put into action? Work with Kronin to create a specific action plan to improve performance.

When will I meet with the person to reassess performance? Don’t skip this step. Set a date to meet with Kronin to discuss progress and stick to it.

Don’t be too hasty to write someone off. When faced with a non-performer, move beyond the label and dig deep to analyze the problem. The answers may surprise you.

I found this short clip on the Web about what to do with the “slacker” in your midst. Enjoy.


The next post deals with the art of giving feedback. Yikes!

Until next time . . .

2 thoughts on “Going Deeper: Analyzing Non-Performance

  1. To me Kronin sounds like he’s not motivated. It sounds like at one point he was a good employee, but in the past few months he has been slacking. People will test others to see what they can get away with. Kronin has been getting away with this behavior for a few months now and it still hasn’t been addressed. Therefore, he will continue with this behavior until someone brings it up.

    It is important for the manager to address this situation. Maybe there’s something going on at home that has caused Kronin’s lack of motivation at work. There could be a number of reasons, but management must confront Kronin about his performance before it’s too late.

    This scenario reminds me of the movie Office Space. If you haven’t seen the movie I certainly recommend it. It’s a comedy, but there are many lessons to be learned.

    1. Thanks for this, Katie. Good insight here and I completely agree. Something’s going on with Kronin and the manager needs to find out. You’re also correct in that Kronin will continue his behavior until he’s called on it. Many managers are leery about digging in, especially if they suspect that the reason is personal in nature. They think that personal problems should somehow be kept separate from work. But it’s impossible to separate the two. We do bring our personal baggage into work! The manager should ask some broad, open-ended questions and then listen to what Kronin has to say. Once they get at the core problem, the manager can work with Kronin on how to correct it. There’ll be much more on motivation in future posts. Stay tuned. Thanks also for mentioning “Office Space.” Art imitating life!

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