Crucial conversations: managing poor performance

News from Peak | October/November 2023

Crucial conversations: managing poor performance


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Written by Narayan van de Graaff, Senior Trainer – Peak Training

As an experienced Senior Manager for a number of national organisations, I am a strong believer in the importance of recognising good performance, and amongst other points - not underestimating the power of a pat on the back.   

Some managers seem to have difficulties in recognising individual and team performance in a timely and effective manner and others, even greater difficulty in effectively dealing with poor performance, which, is the subject of today’s article. 

During my time as the Performance Management Manager for a large bank, I encountered numerous instances of managers dealing very poorly with poor performance.  In fact, I often deduced that they were the ones performing poorly, rather than the team members they were complaining about.  All too often, they had not clearly communicated work goals or targets and their expectations, nor spent adequate time coaching and giving constructive feedback.  Additionally, they hadn’t identified and supported their staff with their learning and development needs or provided any real feedback about staff progress, including providing regular performance reviews, which were meant to be compulsory. 

One instance that comes to mind was a manager who called the Human Resources department requesting that a staff member be transferred because they were not performing at an acceptable level.  The Human Resources Manager investigated the relevant staff file and said, “You’ve giving this person good ratings and comments in the performance review.  How come?” The manager replied, “I know, but they really aren’t performing properly.”   

The HR manager responded, “Until you rate this person the way you see them, I am not willing to take any action.”   

Therefore, it seemed in this case and others, we are not good at providing negative feedback and this may be a big challenge.  However, it is very important to do this in a timely and effective manner and there are many ways to do it.  Not doing this can have serious ramifications for the way we are perceived by our team which can affect morale. Why is a lower performance standard accepted whilst we work very hard? 

Your organisation will have guidelines and procedures for managing poor performance.  The following guidelines are samples of what may work for most organisations. 

  1. Define the Problem 
  2. Determine the Cause 
  3. Take Corrective Action 

For more information on Peak’s workshops that can improve your Performance Management expertise, contact Peak Services Training to discuss the Managing and Leading Performance course or other customised programs to suit your council. 

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