The 5 Steps to Effectively Deal with Non-Performance

If, as a manager or supervisor,  you’ve ever had to deal with someone’s non-performance you know how uncomfortable it can be for you.

And, no one wants to feel uncomfortable.

That’s why, far too often, the non-performance is allowed to continue as if it will take care of itself or just go away. Just so you can avoid feeling uncomfortable.

But here’s the problem. It doesn’t take care of itself or go away.

Instead, when you don’t deal with non-performance, it lowers the performance bar at your company – which MAGNIFIES the problem.

And, the risk is that the norm at your company can then become the lowest level of mediocrity that management is unconsciously prepared to live with.

And, this can weaken your company over time.

So, if you want to be a better manager and help your company become successful over time, it’s critical to effectively deal with non-performance, whether you are comfortable or not.

It’s so easy to put off dealing with it. You know how it happens. You tell yourself that “Mary’s having a bad day” or “the deadline is so close now that I may as well do it myself”. But in the end this can potentially lead to more frustration and resentment for you.

Because, if you don’t deal with ‘non-performance’ when it occurs, it will continue to sabotage your company’s operational effectiveness, management integrity, and ultimate success.

So, if you would rather keep the bar high at your company, there’s an effective 5 step way to EFFECTIVELY deal with non-performance.

Let’s start with a simple definition of non-performance…

If someone is NOT doing something – big or small – that their job (function) requires them to do  – it’s non-performance. That’s it.

And, it’s not like they are deliberately trying to screw things up. Usually, this non-performance is unconscious and unintentional.

In other words, no one comes to work saying “I’m going to not do my job today”.

Yet, “non-performance” happens everywhere, every day.

And, there’s an additional challenge…

Our experience also shows us that most managers are reticent to deal with ‘non-performance’ AND, in almost every case, they don’t even want to discuss their ‘reticence’.

Here’s why…

Most managers don’t deal with ‘non performance’ because they don’t want to be the bearers of ‘bad news’.

If you’re a manager or supervisor, you know that when you have to tell someone that they aren’t ‘performing’, it’s easy for the person on the receiving end to hear this information as bad news or criticism – EVEN IF your intent as a manager is simply to supportively critique them.

If you are like most managers, you are reluctant to deal with employee non-performance because it means you have to DISAGREE with that individual’s behavior or action (the ‘non-performance’).

And if you’re like most people, when you have to disagree with someone, it makes you feel uncomfortable.

This discomfort – caused by the ‘disagreement’ – can lead you to believe that you are actually creating conflict or even being seen as wanting to create conflict.

So, the potential consequences of ‘disagreeing’ are, therefore, punishing – which is why most people avoid it, including managers.

But, here’s the problem.

When you avoid ‘conflict’, the ‘non-performance’ isn’t dealt with. And, that’s not OK.

Because by not dealing with it, you’ve now made non-performance OK. In fact, you’ve reinforced it.

So, if you want to be a better manager, it’s critical to effectively deal with it, whether you are comfortable or not.

Now, here’s the reality check…

You may never become comfortable doing this.

But, as you know, you’re not being paid to be comfortable. You’re being paid to do your job, which includes dealing with non-performance.

Here’s the positive side of this reality check…

You will get better and contribute to raising the performance bar at your company, if you effectively complete these FIVE steps.

These steps are designed to create a ‘psychologically safe’ environment AND to support and encourage the individual to motivate themselves to CORRECT the non-performance issue permanently and to walk out of the meeting feeling empowered to do so, NOT BEATEN UP.

When that happens, you have dealt with non-performance EFFECTIVELY.

Here’s how you do it…


You must deal with it immediately (if possible) upon noticing it or within 24 hours, no matter what. Even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Forgive yourself for being uncomfortable with ‘disagreeing’ (it’s normal to feel this way) and deal with the non-performance anyway.


Schedule a meeting with the other person stating that the agenda is a work-related issue.

The meeting must be FACE-TO-FACE. No phone. No email.

When you meet, identify the non-performance issue simply and succinctly, making sure you are clear about what part of their job it is about and, more importantly, what part of their job it is NOT about.

Here’s what this sounds like in action…

“I want to talk with you about a non-performance issue. This isn’t a criticism of you as a person. Rather, it’s about what your job (function) demands that you do. And, it’s not about your whole job – it’s just about the fact that you missed a report deadline yesterday.”

It’s very important to focus on the PART of the job that you are talking about.

This is because when you address non-performance with someone, most people think you are talking about their whole job. It’s crucial to focus ONLY on the non-performance issue – because you want them to keep doing the rest of their job which they are probably doing well.

This helps support the PSYCHOLOGICALLY SAFE environment for the meeting.

So, now, you ask, “Can you see that as a consequence of missing the deadline, it could be seen or interpreted as a non-performance issue?”


Get agreement that their action can be INTERPRETED or seen as a non-performance issue.  You want them to agree that they can see that it can be interpreted as a non-performance issue.

They may never agree with you that it is non-performance – because one of the critical things that most EMPLOYEES don’t understand is that THEY don’t actually decide whether or not they are competent or appropriately performing. As their manager, you decide that.


Ask them if they want to address this non-performance issue. (If their answer is ‘no’, you have a bigger issue!)

If they agree, have them come up with a solution to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. DON’T ACCEPT any ‘solutions’ that YOU know just won’t work, based on your history and experience with this person.


Summarize the non-performance ISSUE back to the person along with their solution. Reinforce your support and end the meeting.

We’re not saying this is going to be easy. We know that this skill is easy to talk about and hard to do.

However, you have to start somewhere and the sooner you begin dealing with non-performance, the faster your competence in this critical skill will grow.

If this blog helped, you might be interested in our blog on The Biggest Cause of Business Failure.