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Step 4.8

Action checklist: Managing poor performance

1. Identify problems

As a manager you need to keep an eye on how your team is performing. Common signs of
problems include:

failure to meet deadlines and targets

poor quality output

sustained periods of absence

repeated lateness

unwillingness to follow instructions

reluctance to participate in team meetings and discussions

evidence of negative attitudes, stress or anxiety

instances of unacceptable behaviour.

Make notes of the specific problems.

2. Identify the causes

Ask yourself about employee-specific factors:

Have clear objectives been set and understood?

Does each employee have a clear idea of what is expected of them?

Do they understand how their work contributes to wider goals?

Are they receiving any conflicting messages about their work or their role?

Have they had proper induction?

Have they received training and development?

Can they access suitable support and guidance when necessary?

Ask yourself about wider organisational factors:

Are team or individual workloads excessive?

Does the individual have the resources and equipment they need?

Does the work environment support good performance?

Is the employee given opportunities to contribute to the best of their ability?

Is the employee feeling undervalued, ignored or overlooked for promotion?

Are there any relationship difficulties or conflicts within the team?

Is any employee being bullied?

Ask yourself about external pressures:

External factors may also be having an impact: financial pressures, health or family
problems, for example.
Be prepared to handle any issues of this nature with sensitivity.
3. Talk with the employee concerned

If the performance issue is fairly minor and you have a close working relationship, then an
informal chat may be all thats required. Or you may prefer to raise it as part of a regular one-to-
one session. But dont delay.

4. Give the employee a chance to speak

Set a meeting to explore the issue. It isnt about confrontation or blame. Present specific
evidence. Give them ample opportunity to explain how they see the situation. Pay close
attention to what they have to say. Ask open and probing questions. Be calm and objective.
Avoid being judgemental or critical.

5. Decide on the action required

Work with the employee to agree the best way forward.

Some issues will be easier to address than others. If the individual needs more guidance and
support, then coaching might help. If their workload is excessive, can you reallocate work to
other team members? If their equipment is out of date, you may need to apply for a budget to
replace it.

If the underperformance relates to the employees own abilities and behaviour, ask them to
suggest workable solutions and to take responsibility for their own performance. Work out what

motivates them. Find incentives to give them something specific to work towards.

In the case of external factors, consider what support you can provide. If poor performance is
due to disability, your organisation may have legal responsibilities as an employer. Get specialist
advice, if necessary.

6. Draw up a plan of action

Agree the actions to be taken. Set SMART objectives and realistic timescales.

7. Keep the employee informed

Make sure that the employee is clear about the steps to be taken should their performance fail
to improve. Refer them to the organisations policy for dealing with poor performance, so they
can see that you are following a logical step-by-step process in a fair and correct manner.

8. Monitor and review progress

Set a date to review progress, but also monitor it on an ongoing basis. If an agreed course of
action isnt working as intended, discuss this with the employee and agree to take another
approach. Continue to review and monitor progress until you are happy that the issues have
been satisfactorily resolved.

9. Give praise and positive feedback

Give positive feedback as improvement happens. Encourage the employee and motivate them to
continue on the same track. Do all you can to help them rebuild their self-esteem and appreciate
that they are a valued member of your team.

10. Decide whether further action is required

If no improvements are achieved, you will need to decide on the next steps to take. Consider
options such as a different job role or reallocation of job responsibilities. Remember that
changes to employment contracts must be drawn up and agreed with the employee.

If personal issues are affecting an employee then an agreed period of absence or a change in
working hours could be the answer.

11. Understand when formal disciplinary or dismissal proceedings are appropriate

Disciplinary action can be taken when poor performance is due to negligence on the part of the
employee, or where a performance improvement plan has failed to produce the desired
improvements. You must ensure that the employee has been given every opportunity to
improve, with your support, and you must adhere strictly to your organisations disciplinary
policy and procedures to ensure that all actions taken are fair and legal, and that the employee is
kept well informed at every stage in the process.