How To Address Poor Employee Performance And Evoke Positive Behavioral Change

Keeping a poorly performing employee onboard, or simply trying to turn a blind eye to their behavior, can be absolutely detrimental to your restaurant’s culture and a motivation killer for the rest of your team.

Just one bad employee can and will negatively impact your environment, team, and quite possibly, your bottom line — usually much faster than you even imagined.

Here’s how to approach these difficult, but necessary conversations and evoke a positive change in behavior before any irreversible damage is done.


Approach With Caution…And a Plan

Write it out. Before meeting with the employee, think about the information that will truly help them understand the critical nature of the issue as well as the improvements needed and any potential repercussions. Write down or gather any pertinent examples of poor performance, perhaps from past performance reviews, or input or complaints received from customers, coworkers, and other leaders. While names should be withheld in order to avoid infighting or retaliation, be prepared to address specific examples of the undesirable behavior.

Forget about confrontation. When you need to have a conversation about poor performance, this is not the time to focus on hostility, rudeness, or assume a confrontational mindset. Putting the employee immediately on the defensive won’t help anything, except for unnecessarily escalating the encounter. Approach this professionally and as a two-way conversation, taking the time to listen to and acknowledge the employee’s thoughts.

Focus on the Triple H instead. With confrontation off the table, you can instead shift your efforts to engaging the employee in an honest, helpful, and humane way. This can be a challenging conversation to have, but remember that you’re not there to berate or tear anyone down. And lying about or minimizing the impact of their poor performance isn’t the way to go either. The only way to bring about real, lasting improvement is to provide real, honest feedback.


Positivity, Documentation, and Other Details

Offer a path to improvement. Offer the employee any additional resources that may be available to curb their poor performance, such as mentoring, job shadowing, or customer service training. If the employee has specific training or continuing education requests, consider including those if at all possible. Sometimes poor performers can simply be disengaged, so by demonstrating that you value their input, deeper engagement and increasingly appropriate behavior may result.

Accentuate the positive. Now that the employee is fully aware of their performance issues, it’s time to accentuate the positive. One way to encourage the employee to persevere through this rough patch and make the necessary changes is to focus on the final outcome. Provide a brief explanation about how improving in those troubled areas will impact the employee, both short- and long-term. Perhaps they will be eligible to take on a special project or cross-train in a different and exciting role.

Document the encounter. Because of labor laws and for legal protection, it’s imperative that you document the entire encounter. Be sure to include any specific supporting documentation such as complaints or prior write-ups as well as a detailed corrective action plan that outlines the consequences for non-compliance. Both you and the employee should sign the forms and each keep a copy for your records.

Follow through. As part of the corrective action plan, you should establish specific intervals of time during which the employee should demonstrate improvements in performance. Generally, you’ll want to provide employees at least 30 days to get back on track, but 60-day and 90-day intervals are quite common too. During each follow-up checkpoint, reiterate the progress made and the next steps required to continue on a successful path.

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