Client Success Story #3:

A Long-term Poor Performing Employee

The client:

A mid-sized technology company, a CFO, and the Human Resource Manager, reporting to the CFO.  The HR Manager has had numerous conversations with the engineering manager about his poor performing long term employee, but to no avail.  She finally escalated her concerns to the CFO, with whom I was working on an executive project.

The issue:

I was brought in to discuss the situation of the manager with a poor performing employee.  The employee had been with the company for eight years, and his performance and attendance had deteriorated over the past year or so. According to both the CFO and the HR Manager, regardless of what the manager said to the employee, nothing seemed to change.

I met with the CFO and HR Manager to discuss the situation, actions (or inactions) taken to date, and learn more. The three of us had a meeting with the manager and discussed several issues related to the employee. Attendance had deteriorated (coming in late, several days absent); performance of work mediocre, work often incomplete and late; the employee seemed disengaged and unwilling to cooperate or communicate with the team. When the manager had met with the employee awhile back, the employee became defensive and reluctantly agreed to improve.  The manager was frustrated and just wanted to “fire the guy” now!

How we helped:

  1. We scheduled conversations with the CFO, HR Manager, and the manager.
  2. We clarified key performance issues, past discussions with the employee and any actions taken. We discussed the specific examples of unacceptable behavior, actual timesheets (fortunately the employee was non-exempt and time records existed), and expectations and requirements about clear, desired behavior changes for the position.
  3. We coached the manager on ways to focus the employee’s desired behaviors with consequences if there’s no improvement; better (and less emotionally) communicate what is needed and ways to reduce possible defensiveness from the employees.Note:  This was a lively exchange due the manager’s reluctance to define what he actually wanted and needed in a clear manner and his difficulty confronting his employees when necessary. 
  4. We scheduled a meeting with the employee for later that week after a couple of coaching sessions. I opened the meeting and set the context with the employee (identify and solve some issues), and turned to meeting over to the Manager. (The HR Manager was present and offered valuable perspective.)
  5. At the end of the meeting, everyone had a clear understanding of desired behaviors, clear measures and next steps.  A Performance Improvement Plan and Corrective Discipline Warning was discussed and signed. Follow up meetings between the employee and manager were part of the plan.


The HR Manager learned several new coaching skills for her management team.

The manager met with the employee weekly and was better at confronting difficult  situations calmly and clearly.

Although the performance improved for about a month, the employee was finally terminated for continued poor attendance.  No legal actions ensued.


Learn how we helped a client build their formal compensation program.

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