Acknowledge the change in performance.
Let the employee know that you have observed a change in his performance level, and invite the employee to share his/her perspective of his recent performance. Be careful not to sound accusing. This is also a good opportunity to highlight some of his/her past achievements.
Uncover the real issues.
What is the reason for the recent change? Help the employee determine the real issues underlying the performance problem. Is there something happening in the employee’s personal life? If the issues are business-related, you can probably find a solution.
A change in performance may stem from incidents that caused hurt feelings or poor morale—such as being passed over for a deserved promotion. Other reasons may be skills-based. Is the employee resisting new technology and now lacks the skills necessary to do the job? Also, the employee could be just plain burnt out, or no longer feels challenged.
Once the problems are identified, involve the employee to develop and implement solutions that address the specific problem. For example, if the problem is skills-based, consider setting up a special training session or partnering the employee with someone experienced in the area he or she is having trouble. Solutions that address the "burnt out" employee may include giving new and more challenging assignments, providing help with the workload or offering vacation time. Expressing appreciation is also a powerful motivator.
SOURCE: Personnel Decisions International (PDI), Minneapolis, February 24, 1999.