Performance Managing an Employee part 1 of 4

Performance management of an employee can be an area that many employers dread. Whilst many things can be done to improve an employee’s performance, there may come a time when the “carrot” approach of coaching and mentoring to help the employee improve their performance will need to give way to the “stick” approach of performance management.

The general process of performance management has long been accepted by courts and tribunals and will be a familiar concept to most employers. It generally involves giving an employee the chance to improve their performance or meet a required standard and, if after proper processes are followed, there is no improvement then there may be a termination of employment. Whilst most employers will recognise this process, I have found many come unstuck when the time comes to implement it.

This can occur because of the employer’s uncertainty in what they should do next or because they are unsure how to respond to any roadblocks an employee may throw up during the process. In this four part series, I will address many of the areas of confusion, provide some practical tips on how to run a good performance management process and address some common issues that may be raised by the employee.

What is Poor Performance?

Although it may seem obvious, it is important for an employer to take the time to properly categorise an employee’s poor performance before they take any action to address it. This is important as the type of poor performance will shape how the process is conducted.

In general terms, there are two aspects of every employee’s performance at work – the performance of their duties and their conduct at the workplace. Where there is “poor performance”, either one or both of these aspects of an employee’s performance is unsatisfactory and needs to be addressed.

Examples of Underperformance

“Underperformance” generally relates to an employee’s inability to perform their job or undertake their duties in some manner, and can include things such as:

  • Failure to do the duties of the role or to meet the standard required for the duties of the role;
  • Recurring mistakes;
  • Disruptive or negative behaviour that affects co-workers; and
  • Poor communication.

Examples of Misconduct

“Misconduct” generally relates to an employee’s unacceptable conduct at the workplace or in work related situations, and can include things such as:

  • Tardiness or unexplained absences;
  • Inappropriate behaviour with other employees in a work related context;
  • Non-compliance with workplace policies, rules or procedures; and
  • Behaviour that brings the organisation into disrepute.

Serious Misconduct

“Serious misconduct” is a special category of misconduct. It is conduct so serious that it warrants summary dismissal (termination without notice). In situations of serious misconduct, you generally do not have to go through the steps for managing poor performance.

It can be unclear when an employee’s conduct is “serious misconduct” rather than “misconduct”. If you are unsure whether an employee’s conduct is “serious misconduct” as opposed to “misconduct”, a good test to help you decide is to consider whether you allow the employee to work out their notice period after how they have acted. If the employee’s actions are serious enough that you would not allow them back onto work premises to work out their notice then it is likely to be “serious misconduct”.

Serious misconduct can include things such as:

  • Serious negligence in the performance of duty;
  • Wilful and consistent breach of company policies;
  • Lying to the employer;
  • Criminal activity at the workplace;
  • Sabotaging plant and equipment;
  • Physical assault at the workplace.

In Part 2 of our Managing Poor Performance series, I outline the general steps to be taken when managing an employee’s poor performance.

Article by Ni Gao

Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature and should not be relied upon without proper advice.

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