Is Your Employee Having an Off Day—Or Is Something More Serious Going On?

poor performance

Even the best employees have periods of time when they aren’t performing their strongest. When is it the best time to intervene, and how do you evaluate whether the issue is a sign of a downward trend, or if it is simply a blip in an otherwise solid work history? To find out, we asked entrepreneurs the following question:

Q. Employees can have slump periods, times when they’re not firing on all cylinders. What is the top trait you look for to determine whether they’re simply having an off day or if something more serious is going on?

1. Check in when an employee stops caring

A lack of enthusiasm is the clearest sign of a slump. This is especially true if the employee in question was one that showed up early, offered creative ideas and exceeded deadlines. When the employee’s work quality begins slipping, they show up late, and watch the clock in anticipation of leaving, you need to look deeper. If the person hasn’t been offered any new challenges or given new responsibilities, there’s a good chance that the employee is in a slump. Whatever the issue, tackle it head-on. Talk about what’s going on and come up with a shared solution. —Blair ThomaseMerchantBroker

2. Follow up regularly

Managers need a sufficiently close relationship with their team for open communication to be possible. Chat with the employee, and center that interaction on a specific, concrete concern (ex: a recently missed deadline). Encourage them to speak freely about what they have going on and what you can do to help. Follow up regularly until both parties feel satisfied the team is back on track. —Ryan WilsonFiveFifty

3. Resolve issues with one-on-one meetings

There is no silver bullet when it comes to understanding what’s going on with a team member. Remember, they are people and circumstances, motivations and challenges are continuously evolving. In my experience, I have found that the best way to be up to date with the team is one-on-one meetings. This tool allows me to always be updated on each person’s situation and the needs they have. —Felipe CornejoDevsu LLC

 4. Discuss challenges to improve trust

We all struggle. The way I know if something serious is going on is by leading by example. I voice my struggles and how I’m coping to my employees. Many executives don’t opt for that approach, but I believe an honest workplace is important. An off day doesn’t mean you’re in a slump, but every slump period starts with an off day. If you tell them, then they can have confidence to tell you. —Alexander MistakidisGamelynx

5. Take your employees out for coffee

It’s incredibly important to quickly open a dialogue with an employee that’s not performing as well as usual. The best way to figure it out is to take them out to coffee and be open and honest: Ask them how they’re doing and what you can do to help or support them. Employees appreciate if someone else cares for them. —Douglas BaldasareChargeItSpot

6. Cultivate an environment of open communications

While there can be a few signs of disengagement of an employee, no employer needs to rely on tricks in order to get the most out of their employees. Having an environment of open communication can be the most effective tool in determining any problems your employee may be facing. If you can successfully create this environment for your employees, then all you will need to do is ask and you can get to the root of an off day. —Zohar Steinbergtoken payments

7. Look out for repeated misses and other signs

If it becomes habitual that they miss deadlines, that their work is subpar, or they are underperforming overall, then you need to step in and take action. Anything over 2 weeks should be cause for concern, you should address it, then ask them to step it up for the upcoming week. If they don’t step it up, then you have a problem on your hands. —Andy KaruzaFenSens

8. When in doubt, ask

I find that just asking has help me identify if my employee is having a rough patch. It also helps with rapport and shows we genuinely care. —Jessica GonzalezInCharged


9. Trust your gut feelings and empathize

I know my people. Essentially, I make a mental note to see if I’ve been seeing off behavior for a week straight or more. Then I pull the employee aside or call them into my office. You might stumble into personal problems at that point, so you need to pick a setting that offers privacy and dignity. —Derek BromanDiscount Enterprises LLC/

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