What to Do When Employees Aren't Performing

Just because you have minions, doesn’t mean they’ll do your bidding. Get-It-Done Guy explains what to do when delegation fails.
Stever Robbins
6-minute read
Episode #537

Fix “Chance To” With Time and Tools

Behind "I didn’t have the chance to, is a lack of time or tools. If it’s time, review their competing commitments together. Figure out what can be juggled so they have time to peel your grapes. 

Also, consider the deadline. While I’m sure you have never, ever, ever given someone an overly optimistic deadline for a delegated task, many other people have. 

Maybe Ashley just needs more time to peel the grapes. (Unlikely, because of course always set deadlines correctly. Always. Even when I’m a year late getting my manuscript to my publisher. My deadline was correct. It was my publisher’s that was the problem.)

If they need tools, get them what they need. That’s part of delegating. 

If you want Ashley peeling grapes, you have to give Ashley a grape peeler. 

Fix “How To” With Classes

They’ll happily tell you if they need time or materials. That’s chance to. But also notice their how to. They may tell you outright that they don’t know how to do something. Or they may be oddly vague in a way that suggests they don’t know.

Ashley could say “I was so psyched to peel grapes! But they somehow kept being cut in half.”

“What were you doing?” you ask.

“I was just using the, er, machete. I was, er, peeling them. The grapes, I mean.”

It sounds like Ashley might not know how to peel grapes, and is afraid to say so.

If they don’t know how to do the thing, get them taught. YouTube bring the world’s knowledge to our fingertips! Plus the world’s conspiracy theories! And the world’s entire collection of false information, that tells you that delicious party cocktails can be made by dropping 5 Mentos candies into a liter bottle of Diet Coke.

Fix “how to” problems by signing your minion up for a course. Or connect them with someone senior who can give them the necessary guidance. Send them to an in-person class. Or give them a project to develop the skill they’ll need. 

Fix “Want To” With Something They Care About

Ashley will never tell you if the problem is they just don’t want to peel grapes. For “want to” problems, watch your minion’s emotional aspect. If they seem unexcited about peeling grapes, say: "It seems you’re not very enthusiastic about grape peeling."

Then just wait. They’ll squirm a bit and suddenly blurt out, “Grape peeling just doesn’t seem very…meaningful. Especially if I’m not being paid.” 

Now you know you need to help Ashley find meaning in their job. And pay them, too. It turns out that working for free (or deferred pay) hinders motivation.

If you’re not up to helping them find meaning and payment, it may be time for you and Ashley to part ways. You’ll have a story of an ungrateful minion who didn’t want to work for free. Ashley will have a story of the boss who gave them a thankless job. And at least one of you will be right.

Delegation is the ticket to the good life. You spend a little time delegating, and a lot gets done. When your minion doesn’t deliver, ask why. Don’t just assume they need training; diagnose, then help your minion fix the problem. Soon you’ll be back up and running. Like Ashley, who’s peeling grapes like a champ…for someone who is willing to pay them. If you know anyone who’s looking for a great job peeling grapes, I have an opening, it comes with its own grape peeler and, of course, it will be great exposure.

I’m Stever Robbins. Check out Get-it-Done Groups to get your book written, get in the habit of doing regular prospecting, or finishing a stalled project. Go to https://www.GetItDoneGroups.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Delegate image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.