It happens to the best of us, whether it’s at work, home, or school, we all have those moments when we know we’ve not been on the ball. When your performance level is off and you’re just waiting for your manager/boss/teacher to call you in for the “chat”. While performance reviews should be relatively transparent conversations, top recruiter Jas Singh says he has found they are one of the most sensitive and resented activities in the workplace. Performance reviews can even cause long-term disagreements or permanent breakdowns.

It’s easy to understand why this happens. When it comes to performance reviews, stakes are often high and emotional sentimental attachment can make an appearance, so it doesn’t take long for both sides to get defensive or stressed.
But great leaders are different. Great leaders not only know how to manage under-performance, but they also use it as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. Here are some ways great leaders manage under-performance.

They don’t wait for “the chat”.

All performance, whether good or bad, can rarely be attributed to something that happens overnight. When things are going downhill, the signs are usually there well in advance. It’s not uncommon for skilled leaders to predict how well an employee will perform in the future based on their current performance, per Singh.

If this is true, why do many managers “give it a few more months” before finally deciding to discuss performance? Great leaders act now. If they see an area that needs improvement, they make suggestions right away so their employees can implement changes as soon as possible. This tactic addresses issues step-by-step rather than waiting to discuss everything in one meeting. This helps avoid the high-pressure conversation when it’s too late.

They take personal responsibility themselves.

Excellent leaders take responsibility for how their employees perform, good or bad. If their team is underperforming, the leader presumes he or she is underperforming. Leaders often gain recognition when performance is excellent, so great leaders know it’s only reasonable they take responsibility when things are going wrong.
The last thing a leader wants to do in a time of under-performance is to come across as threatening. Doing so will only create defensiveness and resentment. Instead of only focusing on an employee’s performance, they start with their own, expressing their accountability for things not working out and requesting feedback on how they can improve. Taking this responsibility creates a platform for a more collaborative and effective solution.

They build and help execute plans.

Most performance reviews and meetings end with a course of action – targets, deadlines, and consequences. While targets can be useful in performance related environments, very rarely are they the complete solution to the problem. Most people who are under-performing know they are not hitting their current target, so why would re-enforcing performance levels make a difference?
During times of adversity great leaders provide guidance, and a helping hand to get back on track. Instead of providing more numbers, they take the time to analyze the situation in detail then create a plan to solve individual problems. Instead of demanding great performance, great leaders work as a team to create it.

Everyone has experienced a time of under-performance, but how others respond can make a big impact on the overall outcome. Hiring managers have a lot to gain from working with employees to understand and improve performance in a cooperative way, fostering teamwork rather than resentment.