This guide is aimed at swarm leads supporting a contributor who’s not meeting performance expectations.
NB: there are many ways you might go about helping someone in this situation, you might have an established method which works for you. So don’t feel that this guide is prescriptive.
Establish root cause
The first thing to do is understand what’s causing the poor performance. There are many factors that might be playing into the situation, e.g. ...
Lack of ability?
- Tasks too difficult
- Insufficient level of personal skill, knowledge, understanding of crypto
- Lack of organic improvement/progression over time
- Doing work that doesn’t appeal to their areas of strength
- Personal difficulties outside work
- Lacking support to do their best work
- Attention focused elsewhere (e.g. on other projects)
- Dissatisfaction with compensation
- Not feeling valued/recognised
- Concern over job security
Misalignment of expectations?
- Misunderstanding of priorities
- Expectations of them as an individual not clearly defined
- Not connecting with Status’s vision & objectives.
Begin with curiosity, ask open questions to explore what’s happening, e.g.:
- What are their frustrations/pain points?
- How do they rate their own work?
- Are there tools/resources/support they’re lacking that would help them do their best work?
The aim here is to dig in and find out more, while also having a frank discussion with the contributor to raise your concerns about their output. Ultimately, each person is accountable to drive their own development, your role is to help coach them in identifying and troubleshooting their own issues.
- Mention that you are asking out of genuine curiosity how they think their work is going
- Ask whether they’re open to you giving some honest feedback
- Then - mention the facts: [whatever work behaviours you’ve observed that are concerning. Remember - focus on behaviours not the person]
- Explain that this causes you some concern because it’s not meeting your expectations around [whichever expectations aren’t being met]
- Check whether there is a mismatch of understanding - do they agree that their work is not meeting expectations, do they have some explanation for what you observed?
- Is there any support you can offer them? You want them to succeed and want to do what you can to help them be engaged in their work here.
- Propose a follow up discussion to check in again at a later time.
Once you’ve had a discussion, send some brief notes of your discussion to firstname.lastname@example.org. These notes help People Ops review that the contributor has been given a fair chance to improve. Without a record, it’s much more difficult to verify the progression of a performance concern.
People Ops will verify that you’ve covered off on any talking points that are important, as well as guide you on next steps. You might be asked to gather feedback from other contributors, provide additional evidence of work, or have a follow up discussion with the individual.
Some things that you might try to tweak/provide to improve the situation. Tailor depending on what you’ve established as being the cause of the low performance:
- Additional training / coaching / mentorship
- Access to tools (e.g. software you think might be helpful, like project management software)
- More frequent 1:1s
- Shadowing (e.g. paired programming)
- Putting in place a performance improvement plan, a structured training & check-in plan
- Offering work that’s varied or a new challenge, something to break out of a rut (if someone is in one)
- Encouraging them to take AFK if they haven’t had a break in a while, sometimes some rest and disconnection can help for low motivation
- Building connections/relationships/collaboration with other contributors (to avoid situations where someone is disengaged and working in a silo)
- Creating a personal roadmap to re-spark engagement.
Some things that we don’t encourage for someone who’s underperforming:
- Changing teams - unless it’s a situation where clearly someone is in the wrong role, we’d recommend not changing team as this may effectively shift a problem elsewhere without necessarily resolving it.
- Compensation increases - sends a mixed message which may be confusing. Pay rises should only be given in instances of strong performance.
Follow up discussions
The frequency and timing for follow up discussions will vary according to each person’s individual circumstances, but as a guide, you should aim to have at least two follow-up discussions, and give a contributor at least 4-8 weeks to improve their performance.
Follow up discussion 1
- Recap initial discussion
- Give recent feedback
- What improvements (if any) did you see versus what you were hoping for
- Recognise improvements and give encouragement to continue with any positive behaviours
- Reiterate that their work is not meeting expectations still [if applicable]
- Ask for their reflections, do they have any questions?
Follow up discussion 2
- As above, but mention that you expect to see a significant improvement or you’ll have to move to a discussion on ending their contract with Status.
For both discussions, please send your notes and reflections to email@example.com, including your recommendation for whether we should retain that contributor. It’s fine if you aren’t sure, People Ops can guide you.
Making a decision
Some questions to ask yourself when thinking about whether a contributor has long-term prospects at Status:
- Did that contributor understand clearly the delta between their output and your expectations? Were you explicit enough in communicating this? (Sometimes the same message can be interpreted in different ways between two people, e.g. “not thrilled with your performance” in some regional interpretations is clearly understood as a negative, whereas in others it can sound like an absence of excellence, but a sufficient outcome). Consider how cultural differences can play into this (e.g. direct versus indirect feedback cultures). [Check out this (lighthearted) example of how interpretations vary between two cultures]
- Do you think that the expenditure from your budget on that contributor’s fees represents value to the team and to Status?
- What would be the impact of losing that individual, and how easy are their skills/attributes/experience to replace?
- What impact is their poor performance having on the rest of the team?
- How is the contributor doing relative to their peers as a benchmark?
- Do you feel you’ve given the contributor sufficient time, space, and support to improve?
If a decision is made to offboard a contributor, POps will talk to you about options, e.g. whether hiring a new team member makes sense or discuss whether a gap left by a departing contributor can be filled in other ways.