Underperformance needs to be addressed promptly so that it does not become more serious over time and ultimately affect the productivity performance, or culture of the entire workplace. As a manager you need clear procedures, organisational support and the courage and willingness to confront the issue.
Below is our recommended approach to managing performance issues in the workplace:
1 Identify the problem with the employee’s performance.
In our experience, it is not uncommon for a manager to feel generally negative about an employee or even to feel a general dislike for the person. Ask yourself this: “What is this employee doing that does not meet the requirements of the position and where are those requirements documented?”
2 Organise a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem.
This is the time to let the employee know the purpose of the meeting in advance, so they can adequately prepare for the meeting. You should inform the employee that they can bring a support person of their choice to the meeting. You may be concerned about the support person disclosing confidential information from the meeting, however the truth is that confidential matters of your business should not be discussed as the purpose of the meeting is to point out the performance issues. If it is an internal employee that is present as the support person then you can remind that person that the contents of the meeting are strictly confidential between the employee and the employer.
3 Meet with the employee to discuss the problem
This is where you can explain what the problem is, why it is a problem, how it impacts the workplace and why there is a concern about the problem. This meeting should be an open discussion and the employee should have an opportunity to have their point of view heard and duly considered. Remember to take notes of what is said and agreed to during the meeting.
4 Jointly devise a solution to the problem.
This is where you ask the employee how the problem can be overcome. It may be that you identify the need for and you go ahead and offer some further training and assistance if it is required. You will need to provide the employee with a reasonable time to improve their performance or to undertake and implement their training. You should confirm what was discussed and the plan of action in writing.
5 Monitor the ongoing performance
You may want to arrange a meeting to review and discuss the ongoing performance against the agreed action plan, even if there is no longer an issue.
When Performance Doesn’t Improve
6 REPEAT steps 1 – 4 and advise that due to the failure to improve the performance creating the problem, that dismissal is a possibility and that there is a finite time to improve and set the date for that to occur.
7 REPEAT steps 1 – 4 and advise that dismissal is now being contemplated. If that decision is contemplated, then you should provide an opportunity for the person to respond to your preliminary decision to dismiss and take into account the matters contained in the response.
So often we hear from an employer who is wedded to a dismissal and, despite this advice, just wants the person ‘gone’ from the office environment. It is acting without a proper process that exposes the business to having a claim made against the business that may well be upheld if it is litigated.
Your patience in recognising your legal obligations and also in working methodically through this process is really what is best for the health of your business – not your urgent desire to act without considering what you are doing if you just give in to the temptation to remove someone from your workplace.