Ask the Right Performance Question, Get the Right Answer: Performance Problem Solving

You know the importance of performance management in business. Your employee isn’t meeting standards and it’s up to you to fix the problem. But do you really know what the problem is? This article walks you through the steps of an essential managerial exercise for diagnosing employee performance problems.


Ask the right questions to get good answers

There’s a flow to great performance management

There’s an order to how we do things. There’s an order to the steps of the SpeakSTRONG Method, and an order to how we manage performance. Can you skip some steps? Sure – but not without paying a price. And given the importance of performance management in business, it’s good to get things in sequence. Like diagnosing the performance issue before you try to solve it. That’s a huge one – and one many of us forget. 

Ask the right question

To get good answers you need to ask good questions in a good sequence. Here are some questions for you to ask as you diagnose your employee performance problem:

1. What is the expectation? What do you want that you’re not getting? Is it clearly defined? Is it measurable?

2. What is happening instead? What are you getting from the employee? Make this as specific and concrete as possible.

3. What is the gap between the expectation and actual performance? Compare the results of #1 and #2 and define the difference.

4. Does the employee understand the performance problem? If no, what has to happen for them to comprehend the issue? Don’t assume the employee understands the problem. If expectations are not clear and concrete, the employee may not even realize there is a problem. It may seem clear to you, but that doesn’t mean it is to them.

5. CAN the employee do the job? If not, what would the employee need to be able to do their job? The employee may understand there is a problem, but not know what to do about it. They may lack training or resources or in other ways be set-up to fail. Find out if the employee is capable of meeting expectations, and if not, why not.

6. Does the employee have the resources to be able to do their job? If not, can they be provided? Resources include equipment, training and people. Find out what resources could solve the problem.

7. Is there an external obstacle to the employee’s ability to do their job? If yes, can this obstacle be removed? External obstacles can include too many demands on the employee’s time and coworkers who don’t provide information or help as expected.

8. Is good performance rewarded? If no, how can rewards for good performance be assured? If the employee does a great job, does anyone notice? Is there a benefit to the employee to do well?

9. Is good performance punished? Often good performance is “rewarded” with more work. That could be regarded as a punishment. Also, colleagues might resent a good-performing colleague.

10. Is poor performance punished? If the employee does a bad job, does he or she even hear about it? Is there any cost to them of not doing their job well?

11. Is poor performance rewarded? If yes, how can that be remedied? Poor performance is often “rewarded” by less work. Occasionally employees even deliberately do a bad job to get out of being asked to do it again. Also, sometimes coworkers appreciate others who keep the bar low.

12. Does the employee want to meet expectations? If not, what could motivate the employee? If the employee doesn’t want to do a good job, it’s unlikely they will. Unless you can find a way to motivate them, it’s unlikely they will ever meet expectations.

Performance flow chart

You may not get the answers you want

If you’ve asked the right questions and worked with the issues without benefit, you may need to terminate employment. This worksheet will make sure you don’t terminate when the problem could have been fixed, and it provides a solid foundation should a termination be challenged.

The appropriate PowerPhrases (Power Phrases) for each step of the process are available in my book, Perfect Phrases for Managers and Supervisors.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *