How to ... Deal Informally with Poor Performance

Poor performance by a member of your staff must not be allowed to persevere. It chips away at the good performance of all the other staff – who start to wonder why they should so work so hard when (at least) one member of staff does not …. and gets away with it.

However those good members of staff might still feel some ‘solidarity’ with the poor performer and will not necessarily want to see a hard-edged disciplinary process being brought into play.

This is the time for a softly-softly, informal approach (the harder stuff can always come later if needed),

Of course, rule number 1 is to make sure you are aware of poor performance – either because the figures tell you or because the supervisor tells you. You need to know!

Rule number 2 is to deal with it promptly … don’t wait for it to improve. If you leave it, it is likely to get worse . .. and you will have been seen to abdicate your responsibility.

Speak to the employee in private about the issue. This is an informal chat so there is no need for any ‘representation’ – it should be 1 to 1.

Try to find out if there is a reason behind the poor performance (and, if there is, address it). Check the obvious issues – the 3 ‘big ones’ are:

· lack of training and support,

· a breakdown in interpersonal relations amongst the work team

· problems outside of the workplace.

If there is no obvious explanation, or the worker is unwilling to tell you, simply explain – clearly and firmly - that you cannot let it ride.

Keep a note of the discussion and any agreement you make. However, since this is informal, do not write to (or email) the worker with those notes.

Try to come to some agreement that results in an action plan that lists:

- standard expected

- timescale for improvement

- support available

- consequences of non-improvement.

Then, monitor future performance against this plan. Hopefully this solves the problem. If not, you might have to move to a more formal stage.


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science - and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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