Dealing with Poor Performance

by Jesse Pilkington


I was recently asked about how to deal with an under performing employee.  She had someone on her staff that starting out making a few small errors that she did not mention.  The employee continued to make them and then she coached her on it.  The employee is still doing it and now it’s gotten to the point where she just wants to fire her but she heard that she should start a three strikes process.

I see this a fair bit and while I am not a lawyer I know a few things about human resources from my experience.  Firstly, there is no legal requirement to have an employee go through a three strikes process.  If you have heard this before it was probably a company policy not a legal expectation.  Start by thinking of the severity of the infraction.  You can separate an employee after one infraction (think being drunk while on the job or stealing).  For something like lateness you would want to give them a few chances.  The key in all of these cases is to ensure that you let the employee know what will happen next if they do not change their behaviour.  For this I would have them sign an official performance write up.


Catch it quickly

For the future you want to make sure that you are dealing with these issues as quickly as possible.  One of the first things I would recommend is to start documenting sooner.  It doesn’t even have to be on an official performance documentation form.  Start by emailing yourself the quick specifics.  With minor infractions you want to give them some leeway to improve and not let it happen again.  By emailing yourself the details you give yourself the opportunity later (if the problem continues) to bring in the other infractions with specificity.  When the next infraction occurs document it on paper and then reference the previous conversations with dates and times.  Should it ever go to labour arbitration a judge likes specifics.


Everyone is watching

When you have a poor performing employee EVERYONE knows it.  As a manager your other employees are watching and waiting for your course of action.  If someone isn’t pulling their weight or making the job harder for everyone else they want you to deal with it.  By allowing this behaviour to go on too long you inadvertently give your staff the message that you are OK with it.  Once you deal with it however you also tell people by your actions what is not acceptable and gain a huge win with the people that do a great job!


Jesse Pilkington, 20+ year veteran in retail management. When it comes to retail, I have done it all. From the front lines of Starbucks as a barista rising to the eventual rank of district manager of up to 13 locations. To the role of General Manager of the highest volume bookstore in Canada. I’ve even owned my own sports retail business. And I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Through Backpack Retail, you can tap into my decades of experience to help you improve your retail operations. On my blog, I share some of my learnings in the hopes that it will help you accelerate your results.  My goal is to give you expert advice that is fast and simple.