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Tips, Tools and Tactics for Managing Poor Performance

Published June 1, 2018 (last updated on February 28, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Tips, Tools And Tactics For Managing Poor Performance

It’s one of the hardest aspects of supervising staff or running a business: managing an employee’s poor performance. It’s a common headache for many employers that can strain personal and professional relationships while impacting the smooth operations of the business.

There are right and wrong ways to address poor performance, and things can go wrong if not handled with care and respect to an individual’s unique circumstances. Fortunately, there are steps employers can take to manage the situation without impacting the working relationship.

Regular performance reviews can assist in identifying any issues before they become larger and it is recommended employers deal with poor performance quickly, as the problem does not usually solve itself. Depending on the type of performance issue, this can be done in an informal or formal manner.

Examples Of Poor Performance

Poor performance or underperformance is a person’s inability to do their job and failing to meet the standards required of the company. Poor performance can manifest in the workplace in a number of ways, such as:

  • Inability to fulfil the standards and expectations of an employee’s role

  • Failing to ensure work is completed within a required timeframe

  • Repeated errors in work

Some of these contributing factors are the responsibility of the employee. However, it is important to not assume an employee is intentionally underperforming, but instead find out why the employee is underperforming. Many cases of poor performance are unintentional. Sometimes an employee will be unaware they are underperforming and won’t change unless they are told otherwise.

Common Reasons For Poor Performance

Many cases of poor performance come from a simple misunderstanding or lack of ability to satisfy the assigned role or position. Some cases are more complex and require a tailored approach to manage the situation.

Some of the most common reasons for poor work performance include:

  • Misunderstanding of standards and expectations for the job

  • Not enough training or support

  • Personal reasons or sickness

  • Work-related stress

  • Workplace bullying

  • Low morale or job satisfaction

When it comes to new employees who are underperforming, they might not fully understand the job description and performance expectations. In this case, extra guidance and support will help ease them into their role. If an employee is a long-term member who has performed well in the past, there could also be a deeper underlying issue needing to be addressed.

How To Manage Poor Performance

Managing poor performance can be done through an informal or formal process. Depending on the type of performance and scale of the problem, one method may be more effective than the other.

Not all cases of poor work performance need a structured process. Sometimes informal intervention is the quickest and most effective way to resolve minor issues. This may include:

  • Giving verbal feedback on the spot

  • Allocating a buddy to help the employee

  • Providing extra coaching and mentoring

  • Giving the employee a written list of tasks to manage their duties

  • If an informal approach does not address the issue, it may be necessary to establish a performance improvement plan (PIP).

Performance Improvement Plan

A Performance Improvement Plan is designed to give employees the support they need to improve their skills over a reasonable period of time. By encouraging an open dialogue and constructive feedback, both parties can work together to identify the key issues and work towards improving performance.

Transferring, Demoting Or Dismissing An Underperforming Employee

If the PIP proves to be unsuccessful, there are a range of options that an employer may have open to them, depending on the circumstances. By mutual agreement, an employer may be able to transfer or demote the employee into a role more suited to their ability, or decide to terminate their employment entirely in accordance with correct procedure. In any case, an employer should be sure to follow the correct process and keep a record of all relevant information to avoid any chances of a claim against the business (for example, an unfair dismissal claim).

Support Is Available

Managing an employee’s poor performance is a tricky and often difficult task for managers and business owners. If you need support, advice or guidance in managing an underperforming employee or want to know your obligations, call an Employsure adviser on 1300 651 415 for a confidential discussion.

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