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She just doesn’t perform- what can I do?

angry woman“I am struggling with a very average performer who just don’t seem to improve. She’s not doing anything really bad and I don’t get complaints from clients but I don’t get compliments or rebookings either. Her performance is mediocre at best and she just doesn’t seem to win clients but there doesn’t seem to be enough reason to let her go either. Am I stuck with her? Is there anything I can do or do I just have to accept people who ‘get by’ just doing the minimum?”

 I think we’ve all faced this situation at some point. Not bad enough to go but not doing enough to stay, but what does this mean for our business? And is the problem with the staff member who doesn’t perform or with the manager for allows it to go on for months?

I think your problem is unclear expectations, no clear consequences and the avoidance of a critical conversation or two! It’s easy for us as managers/owners to complain about staff who disappoint or don’t perform but if we are the leaders and we are in charge, what are WE doing to fix the situation? Why are we allowing this?

First, let’s go back a step. Did we, on day one, explain clearly what was important in how the salon operated and how our precious clients were to be cared for? Did we discuss exactly what we expected of her as a team member, the performance standards we needed and how we would coach and manage her to ensure that she continually grew and was able to achieve all the requirements of the role? Did we put all that in writing? This is called ‘contracting’ and it sets the tone for relationship moving forward.

Yes? Great! You’ve got a good starting point so it’s now a matter of sitting down weekly to review her progress against targets, look for opportunities to grow and invest the time to coach her in all aspects. While she’s improving, there’s still hope. Either coach her up or coach her out. If you didn’t start out like this, time to start again & do it now.

I call this ‘Starting Clean’. It puts expectations on the table and gives your employee the best possible chance of being successful for you.

Being human, however, at some point your new employee is likely to go a little off-track or cut some corners. Now it’s time to ‘Stay Clean’; getting them back on track. This involves a conversation which reminds them of the expectations you discussed and they agreed to and pointing out (gently at first) where these are no longer being met. Highlight the gap or exactly what you need them to do and by when, (offer to demonstrate something if needed) make sure they fully understand (ask them to explain back what they’ve understood) and, if they’re still committed and enthusiastic, they’ll be back on track tomorrow.

If, however, you’ve done all of this and your employee continues to under-perform, you’ll need to shift this up a gear. The key word here is consequence. Calmly and unemotionally, you discuss the standards you need, the results you’re currently getting and the gap. Explain why this ‘gap’ is not acceptable and reinforce that you’re willing to help as long as she’s giving it her all, but you need to see a measurable improvement immediately for the relationship to continue.

And lastly, remember this….. Not everyone is going to fit your culture and trying to force a ‘square peg’ into a ‘round hole’ will only cause tension and disintegrate the relationship. If you’ve clearly explained, trained and encouraged and you’re still not getting anywhere, you might just have yourself a ‘square peg’ and it might be time to have the conversation about allowing them to find other ‘opportunities’ – i.e. a salon that is a better fit for her. If you have this conversation with respect and grace, it’s amazing how many times they’ll turn around and thank you because they just weren’t happy anyway. And that’s a great result for you.

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