Inconsistent employee performance can stem from one of several different sources and therefore should be treated as a symptom, rather than identified solely as a problem in and of itself. Obviously, when all other employees are performing well and the single employee shows signs of faltering, it is probably a personal problem; however, companies with numerous and consistently under-performing employees may be suffering from an underlying systemic cause.
Inconsistency in the workplace generally comes in the form of diminished enthusiasm and therefore productivity, or sometimes as tardiness and even absenteeism. In the natural flow of the work cycle, particularly in sales-oriented jobs, a little bit of fluctuation should be factored into the business model, at least enough to give individual staffers some wiggle room on a month-to-month basis before being brought up on discipline. Inconsistency can also manifest as a crippling lack of confidence.
Causes of Employee Inconsistency
Determining the root cause of employees' inconsistent performance can sometimes be difficult; however, often a frank discussion and questioning will suffice in exposing some or all of the reasons behind employees' inconsistent workplace conduct. Employees who fail on key assignments entrusted to them may suffer from reduced confidence, which can have an overall negative effect on productivity in their general day-to-day roles as well. Managers who suspect an employee is suffering from diminished confidence due to failure can rebuild his confidence by assigning him simpler, easily attainable tasks and give a liberal amount of praise upon successful task completion. Inconsistency can also be a telltale sign of lifestyle problems ranging in severity from short-term stress, such as that caused by the death of a loved one, or even hint at a more severe problem such as substance abuse or mental illness. Substance abuse, such as alcohol or drug use, can often be treated, meaning that employers wishing to invest energy in recovering a struggling employee may opt to have human resources intervene on their behalf. Many corporations offer subsidized stress counseling, for example, in the interest of better employee mental health. Occasionally, an inconsistently performing employee can be the result of an unpleasant work environment, in which case an overall review of employee working conditions may be beneficial in resolving some or all of the problem.
The Push-Pull Solution
The push-pull solution is a compound method for driving employees towards success and away from poor performance through a combination of disciplinary measures for poor performers and tangible rewards for consistent effort. Pushing employees away from poor productivity should be accomplished by outlining clear punishments for negative performance, as well as establishing a clear definition of what defines poor performance in relation to their specific job. Giving employees the best incentive program to pull them up towards success often involves giving them a measure of control over earning potential by way of structured performance-based cash or other financial incentives.
Last Resorts for Struggling Employees
Dealing with troubled employees is an unfortunate though all-too-common part of administering business operations, and even the best, most responsible companies sometimes find themselves at an impasse when dealing with problematic individuals. Ultimately, something needs to be done about poor performers; however, the severity of the consequences can be tailored to allow for a second chance rather than a summary dismissal. To give a struggling employee a second chance, a business can opt to retrain a him into a new and less strenuous employment position, reducing his responsibility and increasing his likelihood of success. While good corporate citizens may take efforts to help struggling employees, ultimately poor performers who cannot find success anywhere in the company need to be removed for the overall well-being of the organization. If efforts have been made to accommodate, retrain and communicate with the struggling employee and no improvement is seen after a specified length of time, there is no shame in putting such a troubled employee up for dismissal.