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Performance Management Discussions Don’t Need To Be Scary

Performance Management Discussions Don’t Need To Be Scary


You have an employee who isn’t quite performing or contributing their fair share. While you know it’s something that you need to address, its certainly not something you’re looking forward to doing.

Raising your concerns with an employee about under-performance can be a difficult task– especially if the person is a long-term member of your team or well liked around the office. But, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away – in fact it will often only make it worse.

The purpose of these conversations isn’t to punish the employee but to help them understand where the problems lie and to change their performance. After sitting down together and going through these seven steps, hopefully the employee takes into consideration what you have said and their performance improves.

If not, here is some simple tips to help you manage further discussions.

1. Have a conversation that is direct, firm, but polite

Here you should explain to the employee what your company’s expectations are of the employee, and how that person is not achieving those targets, KPIs or standards of performance. It’s an important conversation so don’t trivialise the conversation by discussing things that are not relevant.

2. Give examples and share what you have observed

Provide the employee with tangible examples of how they are not performing satisfactorily or specific behaviours you have witnessed. Giving examples of good quality work will also help the employee understand your concerns, plus it indicates the specific areas they need to improve in.

3. Offer some assistance

If possible offer counselling or enroll the employee in training specific to their performance needs. This helps educate, boost enthusiasm and confidence in performing the task(s). It also demonstrates to the employee that you are willing to work with them to and have confidence in their ability to correct the situation.

4. Agree on a time frame for review

In the case of poor performance, whether you review the employee’s progress in a day, week, month or quarter, the time frame will depend on the specific issue and the particular performance area. For example, if it’s about the employee hitting sales targets, usually you would undertake a review in either a month or a quarter. Providing too short a time frame to improve may appear as though you are setting up the employee to fail.

5. Give the employee an opportunity to discuss and respond

Sometimes you may not have the full story – There might be other factors impacting on the employee’s performance such as other team members that aren’t providing the support required to complete the task, or perhaps there is a lack of resources. Remember, this process needs to be a two-way conversation. It’s an opportunity for you both to understand the issues and attempt to successfully resolve them.

6. Offer a support person early on

If the process is moving towards a formal performance management situation, including a possible termination, be sure to offer the employee a support person of their choice. But remember, the support person is not an advocate and should not be permitted to advocate on the employee’s behalf.

7. After the discussion, confirm what was discussed and any resolutions in writing

Once you’ve had this conversation, write an email or letter outlining what has been discussed and any actions that have been proposed. If the consequences of ongoing poor performance could be termination it needs to be spelled out in the letter and constitutes a written warning. Otherwise, the employee may not consider the warning serious or understand that their employment is in jeopardy if they don’t improve. Be sure to have the employee acknowledge receipt of the email, or sign the termination letter as a record of the discussion.

To help you take accurate records of a performance management discussion like this, DiffuzeHR offers you easy to follow templates that will help guide you in the right direction. Our help centre also provides a list of answers to common questions relating to performance management that will help you prepare for your discussion.  

Performance conversations can be scary for all involved and there is certainly no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to performance management. But if you take the time to plan out your discussion the preparation will most definitely pay off.


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Barry Lehrer

Having run my own small business for over twenty years, I understand one of the biggest challenges is protecting your business from potentially damaging personnel or HR issues. That’s why I developed Diffuze.

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