Avoiding the Poor Performance conversation – What is the real impact?

Ange Connor

Addressing issues of poor performance with an employee can be hard. It’s a conversation a lot of managers shy away from having, and for many different reasons. Some managers simply don’t know how to have the difficult conversation, others fear offending the employee and sometimes it’s because the expectations haven’t been clearly set with the employee from the start so to try and then hold them accountable to something that is not clear is challenging.

It is interesting to observe what some managers will do to avoid the poor performance conversation. I have seen businesses move poor performers from one department or business unit to another, or create a new slightly different position to move them in to. Other Managers simply ignore the problem and let it fester to breaking point; resulting in the employee being dismissed or they resign. This avoidance is done in the hope that the employee’s performance will improve in their new department or their new role but if that employee doesn’t know their performance isn’t up to scratch then they don’t know what they don’t know. Sometimes they may be aware they are not performing but they don’t know how to get to the standard required. Avoiding the poor performance conversation no good for anyone. And while you make think that the only impact avoiding the poor performance conversation is having, is in relation to the poor performing employee, I can guarantee you the impact is far greater.

To really get the best out of your team (all of your team) and to be able to create a high performing team, addressing poor performance is critical. Who is really suffering when you avoid the poor performance conversation?

The Poor Performing Employee                                   

This one is pretty obvious. As I said earlier, you don’t know what you don’t know so you can’t expect someone to improve their performance if they are not aware their behaviour is not meeting expectation. Transferring them to another department, creating a new role or simply avoiding the issue is not going to achieve anything. You have set them up to fail.

The Team

By avoiding the poor performance conversation with a particular employee, you are sending a message to other members of your team; and not a good message! You are lowering the bar and creating a culture of accepting poor performance. By creating a new role or moving the poor performing employee to a new role you are only spreading the problem and ultimately this will result in the disengagement of other employees. You will end up running the risk of losing your high performers because of the culture you are creating and your high performers will eventually get sick of carrying the poor performer or lose respect for them and even end up isolating them. Not the type of team culture you want to be creating.

The Manager

Having a poor performer in your team and avoiding the poor performance conversation will actually end up taking up more of your time than having the conversation and holding the poor performer accountable. Poor performers are often time consuming; they are needy of your time, they require higher levels of direction from you or you end up micro managing them because you are not getting the output required. Combine this with potential complaints and disengagement from the rest of your team and your day will be consumed with managing issues resulting from one employee’s poor performance. Or, you end up having to pick up the slack from the poor performing employee, resulting in an increased workload for you. Having the conversation with the poor performer, setting regular follow up meetings and holding the employee accountable will actually save you time, money and reduce stress and pressure in the long run.

Sticking your head in the sand when it comes to addressing poor performance is no good for anyone. As hard as you feel the conversation may be, it’s one you need to have. When you have that conversation be clear with the message and feedback you are giving. It is a hard conversation to have and therefore we can tend to dance around the edge of the issue and we end up having a more “general” conversation with them. Sometimes we aren’t clear with the employee in identifying the issue, articulating the required expectations and/or setting the scene for how performance is and will be measured going forward. If this is the case, often the employee may not even realise you are addressing the issue of poor performance with them.

Addressing poor performance is going to come back to how well you set the expectations of performance and behaviours from the start and what is acceptable and unacceptable. If you have done this well then having the poor performance conversation is going to be much easier. And if delivered effectively, the poor performer will probably appreciate the feedback and the opportunity to improve their performance as well as feeling that they know exactly where they stand.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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