How Do You Deal With Underperforming Employees? LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner Swears by These 3 Simple Sentences

Doing this makes your employees feel supported, and encourages them to improve their performance.

By Tommy Mello

Here’s the great thing about working with rockstar employees: You know you can always count on them … well, until you can’t.

Now, you might be thinking, doesn’t that go against the very definition of rockstar? Isn’t a rockstar an employee who always performs?

Well, not quite. Rockstars are human beings too — so while they might do things right 99 percent of the time, there will be that 1 percent of the time when they slip up, and start performing poorly.

So, how do you handle the situation when one of your rockstars (or another employee) starts to underperform? According to Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, all you need do is approach him with these three sentences:

“I’m rooting for you. I’m the reason you’re in this role. And I’m going to work with you to do everything within my power to get you up to the bar, if not over it.”

Doing this makes your employee feel supported, and encourages him to improve his performance. You can then go on to have an honest conversation with your employees about how his skills or performance is lacking, and make a plan to close the gap.

Don’t turn a blind eye to underperforming employees. The worst thing you can do with underperforming employees is to let things slide, or to accept it when they insist that they’re doing fine.

Weiner once brought up a sports analogy that perfectly describes this situation — he says that it’s important to not leave your star pitcher in the game too long.

Think about it: When a pitcher gets tired and the manager comes out to check on him, the pitcher says, “I’m doing fine, go take a seat.” Then the next batter hits a home run, and the team loses.

As Weiner points out, it’s not the pitcher’s role to be dictating what the manager does. He also notes that he’s never had anyone come to him and say that she was struggling with her job in his 20 years of managing people — and that it’s up to the managers to pull their underperforming employees aside.

Talking to an employee — and pointing out that he or she is falling behind — can be a tricky situation.

Apart from opening with the three sentences that Weiner swears by, here are two more tips to communicate better with these employees.

Ask “why?”
The most important thing to do here is to dig deep, and question why your employee’s performance is getting worse.

Is it because he’s having problems at home? Because she has more work than she can cope with? Or because he’s held back by less capable team members, which makes him feel frustrated and jaded?

Once you understand the “why,” you can put into place a plan that will address the underlying problem.

Make sure you’re on the same page.
Ideally speaking, you’ll have sat down with your employee when she first joined your company, and told her exactly what you expect from them.

Regardless of whether you’ve done this, though, it’s a good idea to discuss these expectations again, just to make sure you’re on the same page. Talk about what you consider to be good performance and attitude, and get your employee to weigh in as well.

As a leader, it’s your job to ensure that your team has everything they need to perform their best. In the case that your employees start slipping up, make sure address the situation immediately, instead of taking the easy way out and ignoring the problem.

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