Free Template: How to correctly manage poor performance
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Free Template: How to correctly manage poor performance

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Even if you have had plenty of experience managing people, this guide will assist you with correctly managing poor performance issues with your staff.

If you don’t have time to read the article now, download our Performance Management Discussion Template to use later.

Most managers would agree that a conversation regarding performance with an employee is the most difficult and often avoided task when managing people or leading a team. However, there are many positive aspects of performance management.

Even if you have had plenty of experience managing people, this guide will assist you with correctly managing poor performance issues with your staff. After stepping you through the questions you should think about before starting a performance discussion, our template will also break down the six steps for leading a performance management discussion:

Which staff members need performance management

Everyone needs performance improvement advice from time to time regardless of what stage they are at in their career. You are helping the employee’s career by giving them timely feedback to improve, and it is okay to ask for improvement but still be supportive of your employee. It should be dealt with, and then you both move on.

If you have previously ignored issues because they were just too hard to deal with, you are doing the employee, not to mention your organisation, a disservice to not discuss it with them. You can have the discussion in a way that is respectful towards the employee, and that maintains or even improves your relationship with them. As well as your employee, your team and organisation as a whole will also benefit the positive impacts of effective performance management.


Identifying and address performance deficiencies

Before you even start to plan your discussion, the first thing you need to do is identify the particular performance issue or deficiency that needs to be addressed. You will need to sit down and ask yourself several key questions:

  • What is the problem? Be specific. You need to include examples, measurements, and data.
  • What job expectation is this team member not satisfying?
  • How does this employee know your expectations?
  • When were your expectations of them last discussed or reinforced?
  • Who is responsible for setting those expectations of this employee?
  • What is the business impact of this expectation not being met?
  • Have I spoken to this employee about this problem before? If so, list when the discussion took place, any witnesses, and any documentation from the discussion.
  • Is there a history of performance problems or disciplinary actions for this employee that differ from the current problem? That may constitute a pattern of poor performance?
  • Are other employees also making this mistake/error, or is it just this employee?


Preparing for the performance discussion

Before you plan what you will say in the discussion, you need to establish the objectives you want to achieve as a result of the performance discussion with your employee. Those objectives should be to:

  • Advise them of their current performance, and how it differs from your expectations.
  • Ask them to improve their future performance to meet company expectations.
  • Offer them whatever support you can in making this adjustment.
  • Explain any consequences that will arise if the same performance continues.
  • Answer any questions they have about the situation.
  • Keep good notes of the discussion for your records.

Keep in mind, it’s vital that you don’t wait too long to have this discussion with them.


Leading the performance discussion

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the issues and have established your objectives, use the following steps to design a template or script to help you stay on track. To guide you through this process, you can download our free performance discussion template here.

Make sure you choose a quiet and private room in which to conduct your meeting. Honour any employee requests for a company witness if you are issuing disciplinary action. Greet the employee politely and thank them for attending the meeting.

As you go through the discussion, jot down brief points so that you have a record of the discussion and the agreed outcomes.


Step 1 – State the problem clearly

Advise your team member the reason for the discussion within your first two or three sentences.

State the problem clearly in the same words you would normally use when talking to the employee in the workplace. Make sure you use language that is descriptive, but not evaluative.

If there is no disciplinary action being taken, it is important to advise the employee earlier rather than later. Doing this will put the employee’s mind at ease as well as make them more open to discussing the issues at hand.

Step 2 – List briefly any prior discussions (if relevant)

List briefly any prior discussions you have had with the employee about this same issue along with any records or documentation kept, provided that it’s relevant.

Step 3 – Ask to hear employee’s side

Invite the employee to share their side of the story and provide more information as to why they are underperforming. If the employee feels that this is a one-way attack on them, they are likely to put up their defences and shut down.

It’s also important that you fully understand the issue. Taking the time to confirm all of the facts can sometimes reveal special circumstances that gave rise to what you saw as a performance issue.

Step 4 – Highlight the business impact

Highlight to the employee how their errors or poor performance can affect more than just their personal area of work. It is essential that they understand the broader impacts of their poor performance on their team, business unit, division and organisation.

Step 5 – Offer support where appropriate

Offer your support. During your discussions with the employee, you may discover that they require support either by way of coaching, extra training, resources or redistribution of workload, etc. If you deem additional support is required, then it’s your job as a manager to assist and support them however possible.

Step 6 – Next steps and follow-up

Take detailed notes during the discussion so you can refer to them at a later date if required. Before finalising the meeting, ensure that you both agree on a follow-up action plan and advise them of your desire to have a performance discussion, at a future date, to evaluate their progress.


Why is it just so hard to have these discussions?

In summary, the keys to addressing any performance issues are: ensure you have planned the discussion, be clear as to the outcome you want, and remember at the end of the discussion you need an action plan and a future date set to follow it up. Using a template such as ours to plan your script will give you confidence and help you keep the conversation on track, as you’ll know that you have researched thoroughly and investigated the situation.

So, if there’s performance issues you’ve procrastinating on dealing with, don’t put it off any longer, but whatever you do, don’t go in unprepared either. Download the template and start preparing for a well-planned discussion that will lead to improved performance as well as encouraging a more open and trusting relationship with your staff.


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