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How to Deal with Incompetent Employees Refusing to Scale Up?

May 18, 2017

One bad apple spoils the barrel. In the workplace, this old adage might best describe a situation where one employee’s irresponsible deeds will affect the whole team’s morale. At some point or another in your leadership career, you might have to work with incompetent employees.

What makes it even more problematic, this not only fails to meet the organisation’s goals, but it seems that they refuse to learn from their mistakes and scale up, too. Given that one bad apple might ruin the whole group, how should you treat this particular employee?

Having to deal with incompetent and stubborn employees who refuse to progress would be every leader’s worst challenge. And unfortunately, no workplace is immune from such clumsy workers who might drag the whole team’s performance. Since firing them is not always the best option, it is better for you to find out the root cause of the problems behind their incapability to fulfil their responsibilities.

You need to assess whether their poor performance is caused by lack of ability, lack of opportunity, or even lack of motivation. Only when you can find out the major source of headache, you can sketch out a strategy to turn the tables.

Being a leader is a full-time job. To be an effective leader who drives impactful change, you should know to handle and manage underperformers professionally. Learn from these tips below on how to deal with incompetent employees and transform them into top-notch employees:

See: Effective Ways to Motivate Underperformers

  1.       Set and communicate the expectations

Many things can go wrong when poor communication exists within an organisation. Therefore, first of all, you have to make sure that everyone in the team is aware of their job and responsibility, as well as what the organisation expects of them to achieve as a team.

Hence, everyone will be on the same page of what they’re supposed to do to meet the standards. When someone is deemed as incompetent due to their misunderstanding towards their responsibilities, it is time to clarify and tell them the right ones.

  1.       Offer help and guidance

Maybe your employees are overwhelmed with their workloads and you don’t realise it until they slow down their working pace. If this is what happens, you need to offer help and guidance to ease the burden on their shoulder.

If you find that their incompetency is caused by lack of expertise about the matters on hand, you should provide necessary tools that will help them to grow, such as signing them up for a development class, giving them related books, or recommending resources to learn online.

  1.       Arrange alternative schemes

None is perfect for everything, so are your employees. When one of the employees is assigned for a role in which they have no adequate knowledge and skills, they will be more likely to fail. For example, employee A excels in designing but incompetent when it comes to financial research, yet the team leader assigns him as a treasurer in one project.

At the same time, employee B excels in finance but incompetent in designing, yet the leader asks him to plan the design. When such scenario happens, all you need to is to exchange their responsibilities, such that everyone can bring the most of their competences.

  1.       Confront the employees

If you have done three steps above and seen no improvements then you should confront them directly. While you need to speak frankly and openly regarding to their performance and work quality, you should stay polite and professional.

Do not be judgemental or even insulting them as an individual. Instead, you should explain how their attitude has affected the entire team and discuss the solution together.

  1.       Keep records of everything

To avoid any conflicts or negative arguments after confronting the employees, you should always keep records of everything. You need to document facts and all evidences that will help you when such inevitable confrontations happen. Therefore, the incompetent workers will have no chance of blaming others upon what they did, nor playing victim for their poor performance.

  1.       Be prepared for the tough option

Sometimes, you just can’t change what people really are. When you have tried everything and no development is made by your employees, then it is best to be prepared for the tough option and let them go.

Read also: Time to Switch? Things to Consider Before Your Next Career Move

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