A poor performing employee isn’t necessarily a bad employee. This person can still respect the rules and co-exist well with others, but he's simply not producing up to his capabilities. It can be frustrating for managers to have a talented person in place who consistently fails to contribute his or her best effort. Other employees will definitely notice, and if a lack of performance affects them there’s going to be resentment aimed at the manager as well.
Rather than taking a direct approach, why do so many managers choose to ignore this person instead? For some managers, it’s just human nature to let their actions speak louder than words. And it’s true, silence can send the crystal clear message: “You’re in my doghouse.” Not only does the poor performer receive this message, but it’s pretty clear to the rest of the staff as well.
There are multiple problems with taking this approach. For one, it fails to separate disapproval of the behaviour from the person. Secondly, it’s not urgent. It takes time for the message to gain momentum—if it’s even received at all (some employees aren’t motivated by approval). Thirdly, it sends the wrong message to the group. Managers should exhibit patience in many respects, but not in situations that require an immediate solution. An underperforming employee can place a great deal of pressure on others to pick up the slack, and any feeling of injustice has the propensity to boil over into anger.
Another problem with ignoring a poor performing employee is that a manager is missing out on an opportunity to fulfill a primary function: to extract the optimal results from each worker. This is the challenge, isn’t it? A poor performer isn’t living up to expectations and there’s something preventing that person from realizing his or her potential.
By not talking to a poor performer, you’re expressing disapproval—but you’re not assertively tackling the issue. Why not make an attempt to get to the root of the problem? There are so many reasons an employee could be struggling, and it could be within your means to elevate that person’s production quickly. You certainly won’t know unless you investigate.
So instead of giving the poor performers the silent treatment, don’t let them off the hook. Continue to challenge them and take strides to figure out what makes them tick. If your team is only as strong as your weakest link, shouldn’t a weak link be deserving of more than just your silence?