The three most-repeated HR mistakes made by management

3. Tolerating poor work performance

Poor work performance is the most common employment problem. We always ask, “Do all of your employees meet all of your reasonable standards nearly all the time?”

Unless the answer is a resounding “Yes!” then you have work to do.

Where you have a poor work performance issue, start by investigating the cause of the unsatisfactory performance with the employee. If you can remove or reduce the cause of the problem, the employee’s performance is likely to improve.

The key components of managing performance successfully are:

  • setting and communicating standards
  • regular feedback
  • correction where needed.
Take appropriate action as soon as you notice that the employee is not performing work to the required standard. Delaying, or worse, doing nothing, may well cause the performance problem to get worse.

All too often an employee who is performing poorly gets distinctly shirty when you try to discuss it with him and mutters darkly of bullying and harassment. Make sure your dignity at work procedure includes a phrase pointing out that managers have a right and a duty to manage. If a manager is properly seeking to help and encourage an employee to do his job to the required standard, and it’s done in an appropriate fashion, it does not constitute bullying, harassment or victimisation.

Adopt the Mahatma Gandhi approach (hate the sin, love the sinner) and focus on the facts. This is not about whether we like the employee or not, it’s about whether he can do the job. It will help if you provide clear evidence of poor work performance to support your point. If you’re accused of bullying, ask why the employee thinks he is being bullied. A useful phrase is ’Help me understand why you think I’m treating you less favourably than anyone else who performs at this level?’ Wait politely for the answer. Repeat if necessary. This can help to disperse unwarranted accusations and helps the employee understand that you mean business.

After you’ve had a discussion with the employee, the next stage is to create a performance improvement plan (PIP). Agree and set down precise performance targets which are capable of being measured.

And finally, make sure you take advice from operationally effective HR professionals who can sort out your problem quickly and save you from making costly and time-consuming mistakes.

Kate Russell is the MD of Russell HR Consulting.

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