As a manager you will come across one or more poor performers at some point in your career.  This is never a fun part of being a manager but an essential one. Poor performers not only affect their own work, they also impact on their team, their manager, their peers, the business, and ultimately, your customers.

So what is poor performance?

 Poor performance can be either behavioural or technical.


  • Failure to consistently produce satisfactory quality or quantity of work
  • Failure to complete tasks or work within deadlines
  • Lack of knowledge or skills to adequately perform role
  • Failure to follow standard procedures or processes
  • Frequent mistakes in work
  • Failure to meet expected targets
Attitude or Behaviour 
  • Inappropriate work behaviour
  • Negative attitude or behaviour within team environment
  • Failure to follow company behavioural expectations
  • Continued lateness
  • Failure to follow standard processes
  • Lack of team work


How do I deal with Performance Management?

When managing someone’s performance, you must be fair in your approach. That is, that you follow a proper process, you comply with the law, and that you give the employee the opportunity to improve. The end goal should be to manage the employee up, not out.

In every case, if you have an issue, the best way to deal with it is to:

  1. Organise a meeting immediately. Timeliness is key here. If you leave something for too long (i.e. even 2 days), you are effectively accepting the behaviour or action.
  2. In the meeting, tell the employee that you are there to discuss their performance. Ask them if they would like to bring a witness to the meeting, and you should have witness too (this will avoid industrial issues later).
  3. Go through the specific examples of the unacceptable behaviour. Use specific times and dates and try to avoid emotive language – stick to the facts.
  4. Let the employee have their say on each incident. This is important, as you can never know what is going on that may be impacting their performance / behaviour. Also, it is vital to remember that the outcome of the meeting should not be pre-determined. You need to listen to their point of view and take it into consideration when making a decision about what you will do.
  5. Be honest, talk about the issues and give the employee a chance to respond to your questions.
  6. Set clear expectations about what you want from them and by when. This can be part of a Performance Improvement Plan. Expected standards of performance must be reasonable and must be the expected standard for all individuals in that role.
  7. Document everything that is said in the meeting (your witness should takes notes on the meeting), then confirm expectations and events in a formal letter.
  8. Get the employee to sign the documentation to confirm understanding.
  9. Explain what is going to happen should there be future issues, i.e. more warnings, termination etc.
  10. Follow up – Set timeframes for when you need to see improvement, set the next meeting in which you will meet to assess how they are going, and coach them on a day to day basis. The aim is to improve their performance, not ‘get rid of them’. You might be surprised – some people just need a formal meeting to realise that they need to lift their game.

What should a Performance Improvement Plan include?

  1. The specific areas of the employees’ performance that need to be improved, be as specific as possible.
  2. The expected standard of work performance and that it must be performed on a consistent basis.
  3. The support and resources you will provide to assist the employee.
  4. Feedback on how they are progressing towards the expected performance standards, include measurements if that is part of the expected standard.

Common issues in Performance Management.

Unfortunately, many employees view Performance Management as a negative rather than as a positive learning opportunity.  Some common complaints you may hear are:

  • “I’m being set up to fail, this isn’t achievable”
  • “I’m being bullied”
  • “I’ve done it like this since I have been here”
  • Employee does not agree with the expected standards of behaviour
  • Employee has an illness or personal circumstances
  • Employee does not take the process seriously

Your responsibilities as a Manager.

As a manager it is important you follow a robust process that will help avoid any nasty industrial issues.  Make sure you can tick off the following when conducting performance management.

  1. Set clear performance expectations and objectives
  2. Ensure your employees understand the expected standard of performance
  3. Make sure you have provided your employee with the tools they need to complete their job
  4. Effectively manage poor performance in a timely manner
  5. Know the reasons why your employee is under performing
  6. Set achievable and fair performance standards
  7. Give regular and effective feedback
  8. Complete the appropriate documentation

A generally accepted statistic is that leaders spend around 70% of their time dealing with the bottom 30% of their team, on items such as coaching, re-directing, even fixing their work.

This is all dead time and money.  Now imagine you could spend that same 70% of time developing, coaching and rewarding your top 30% performers. Can you see the immediate benefits?  The sad thing is that your high performers are normally the ones who are a) neglected by their managers and b) responsible for picking up the slack left by the poor performers.  It’s time for you to make a shift.  Make a change for the better – get your poor or average performers up to scratch or out of your business because these people are holding you back.

Also remember, you can call HR Gurus at any time for advice and coaching on how to get it right.

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