In my last article, I shared some quotes which resonated (or concerned) a number of readers. These quotes were examples of how I had communicated to employees that they were not performing at the expected bar. For example, a variation of this quote was something I'd said (more than once) to underperforming employees:
"I absolutely do not want to fire you. I'd love to promote you next year instead. I swear I'd enjoy that much more. I'm giving feedback because I really want you to succeed."
I received a number of messages/emails on the topic, asking if I really expected a manager to communicate in such a "harsh", "confrontational", "threatening", or "rude" way.
I do. I absolutely 100% think that managers should communicate in such a way. I've managed hundreds of employees, and plenty of those were employees who were not performing the way we expected. It was either their communication, or their way of interacting with coworkers, or the amount of work they got done, or the quality of work they completed.
Beyond the underperforming employees in my organizations, I've coached many employees who were not meeting the bar, coached managers who were coaching people not meeting the bar, and handled escalations to leadership for employees who were protesting their feedback.
The most common issue I've run into (by far), is that employees don't believe, understand, or recognize the seriousness of the feedback they're receiving. On the scale from one "you're great" to ten "you're fired", they might be at an eight or nine, but they think they're between a one and a five.
It's a travesty for someone to be able and willing to improve how they work, but not have the information necessary to deal with it. It's the manager's job to get them that information.
Basic performance management process
Here is the basic process most companies follow when employees don't hit the bar.