Dealing with poor performance

A good performance management system means there should be no surprises about poor performance in an appraisal because any underachievement should have been dealt with as and when it happened.

Disciplinary procedures (see article 190) should not be part of the appraisal system as this will compromise its standing with employees. The appraisal process then ceases to have value in the organisation and the positive effects will diminish.

Conducting ‘difficult conversations’

By their very nature, conversations with individuals about their performance are personal. These can be the most difficult and contentious aspects of a line manager’s responsibilities. Potentially difficult encounters with under-performing team members can be defused by careful use of language and focusing on performance rather than the individual.

When approaching potentially difficult workplace conversations, line managers need to have realistic expectations. Depending on circumstances and personalities, these encounters may be formal or informal, but not always pleasant or relaxed. It is not a casual chat between friends, even if the people involved are on friendly terms.

These tips can help line managers avoid the classic pitfalls that make potentially difficult conversations turn ‘toxic’:

• avoid a combat mentality – aim for a win-win, otherwise everyone loses

• don’t over-simplify; break down complex problems and deal with each element in turn

• show your respect for the other person by keeping the content clear, using a neutral tone and temperate phrasing

• if things get heated, don’t be goaded to smooth things over or lash out, stay focused on your desired outcome

• prepare what you want to say, but don’t use a script; anticipate reactions and consider your desired outcome. Be prepared to listen and respond accordingly

• don’t lose sight of the goal.