Dealing with poor performance

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The process of dealing with poor performance is a common one, but can be hard to get right because of its subjective nature.

DLA Phillips Fox special counsel Laura Scampion told HRM that often poor performers lacked the self-awareness to know that their work wasn’t up to standard.

And having to tell someone they were performing poorly could be a direct hit to their self-esteem.

“Because it’s such a difficult conversation to have, it is often avoided,” said Scampion.

“That person’s manager often doesn’t start the conversation until it’s too late.”

By the time the matter was escalated to HR, they were forced to start afresh with an employee whose performance had not been properly addressed.

Avoiding the issue could also lead to a drop in productivity and could affect morale.

Scampion said that in such cases, the employee’s team could become irritated because they were forced to pick up the slack, or they could rally around the poor performer and help to carry them which could lead to the manager being perceived as “ganging up” on the employee when they tried to address the performance issues.

“Poor performance can lead to dysfunction if it’s allowed to carry on instead of being dealt with quickly,” she said.  

When dealing with a poor performer, it was important that the employee was aware from the outset that the process could lead to dismissal.

Scampion said putting a performance improvement plan in place and reviewing it regularly with the employee provided clarity around the level of performance expected and the areas in which the employee needed to improve.

It was also important to allow the employee reasonable time to improve before the process moved towards termination.

Employers also needed to consider why the worker was underperforming and look at whether they had been promoted too quickly or if they required further training and guidance in their role.

“As part of a performance improvement plan, it’s important to show that, as an employer, you have given them the opportunity to stay in the organisation and be a productive and efficient employee.”

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