Tips for Managing Remote Non-Performers

Managing employees is a complex part of being a leader. While many people thrive on relationships and mentoring a team, others struggle to hold staff accountable when things are not going well. In fact, one study shared that 18% of top executives consider holding employees accountable is their greatest weakness. This becomes even more challenging in a remote work environment.

With more companies forced into virtual environments due to the pandemic, many managers are facing new problems with employee performance. How can managers confront team members who are struggling while still remaining compassionate to their needs?

Show empathy - but don’t lower the bar.

It’s important not to confuse compassion with lowered expectations. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt, and find out what’s going on that is causing performance issues. For example, in the current environment, many people have children at home with them that can hinder their availability. Is that a problem? A health issue? Other things causing anxiety? You can take these scenarios into account while still making expectations clear. The first step is having the conversation - don’t avoid engaging in these dialogues because they can be difficult or you fear being viewed as unsympathetic.

Hold a video call where you can read each other’s expressions. Ask how they are doing and genuinely care about their well-being. Then, clarify that the conversation is to address the current performance challenges. Ask them why they feel like these challenges are happening. You might discover that processes, systems, or other communication struggles are to blame. Sometimes a lack of tools or direction hinders performance. You may find that your path to results needs to shift, and you can collaborate to make that happen.

Work together to problem solve.

Things will not improve if you alone are responsible for fixing things. The employee needs to take ownership of resolving challenges. Ask questions such as “What do you think the problem stems from?”, and “What would you change if you could?”. Resist simply telling them what to do or how to do it. Assure your team that you are ok with missteps, as long as they are corrected and everyone learns from them. Ask what you can do to ultimately help them improve. Tell them you know the team as a whole can do better, and you’ll help in whatever way you can.

Strengthen overall accountability.

Your team needs to understand that you don’t have time to constantly catch things that fall through the cracks. Each person needs to be responsible for their own deadlines and deliverables. A smart leader enables their team so that employees don’t need to overly rely on them. You need to ensure that the right tools and technology are also in place to help everyone do their jobs.

Hold a team meeting and ask everyone to share the ways that they rely on each other. Request that they make firm commitments to each other that will help everyone reach the ultimate objectives of the team. The goal is to help the team feel committed to each other and share what they each need to ensure the right tasks get done on time.

In rare cases, due to extenuating circumstances, you might need to lessen expectations for a short period of time. But the key is working with your employee to make those decisions, not just determining that you will lower your standards.

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