Managing Poor Performance

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poor performance three strikes

Poor performance – Are you confident about managing it?  Most people managers I meet, are not!

Managers fear they will be accused of bullying, mental stress, harassment and unfair treatment. The level of anxiety that managers have about addressing poor performance because of these potential allegations causes me much concern.

You need to know that managerial prerogative is on your side! Managerial prerogative, amongst other things, enables conversations to take place without fear of frivolous and vexatious claims, provided you are mindful and respectful of due diligence and procedural fairness.

Managerial prerogative is defined as a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class. This means that the manager or business owner is within their rights run the business and so manage people accordingly.

Dealing with poor performance sooner rather than later, may prevent the situation being escalated to termination which may lead to a costly challenge in the industrial commission. Unless it is an obviously serious matter my rule of thumb is what I call the 3 strikes rule.

I have used my 3 strikes rule successfully over the years for these reasons. The first time I experience poor performance could be because the individual is having a bad day. We all have them. The second time I see the poor performance I would make a diary note of it and do nothing at this stage. The third time I see the poor performance I would gather factual evidence and be prepared to have a conversation with that individual about what might be going on for them.

Again my 3 strikes rule applies with the tenor of the conversations changing.

  • The first conversation is collaborative and coaching while allowing time for discussion and understanding any mitigating circumstances. It sets up an agreement moving forward and a review date/s set. If there is no change…
  • The second conversation revisits the first and asks why the first agreement was not met? I also check again any mitigating circumstances. What are they prepared to do about meeting the performance requirements? By when will they do it? Do you think anything will prevent you from meeting the terms of this agreement, i.e. performance requirements? If there is little or no change…
  • The third conversation is not a negotiation. It becomes, after checking in on the relevant points, you give that individual a directive about what you want them to do, how you want them to do it and by when do you want it done.

Don’t let poor performers negatively influence your team, business or organisation.

If managing performance is done well one of two things will happen. The individual will step up and raise their level of performance to that required. Alternatively, if they see that you are serious about workplace performance they may well decide to resign. In some circumstances, this may not be a bad option because if you can’t turn them around you will find that you will spend most of your managerial life focusing on this individual and their lack of performance. The sad part about this is that the good employees become neglected because of the energy the poor performing individual can take all your time.

In summary, be well prepared (factual evidence), follow the rules of engagement (due diligence and procedural fairness), take a deep breath (it helps to breathe!), take action (have the conversations), monitor the performance (giving both praise and redirection where necessary), review regularly (ensure you do conduct review because if you don’t you will weaken your case for termination).