Poor Performance Management – A Guide for Manager’s


As a manager, managing poor performance must be done in the right way. By managing your people well, you are also managing your business performance.

Identifying Poor Performance

If you find yourself managing an employee’s poor performance, you need to determine:

  • what the performance issue is
  • the seriousness of the problem
  • how long the problem has existed
  • how it has been managed (or ignored) and why
  • the level of the gap between your expectations and what is being delivered
  • whether there are any known factors which may be contributing to the situation
  • what it is you need to see / what needs to change
  • whether this is out-of-character and indicative of a wider issue

Having an accurate job description of the role will help with this.

Where relevant refer to notes of previous appraisals or supervisions. This will let you clarify any previous conversations or feedback.

Informal Performance Discussion

Start off with an informal discussion to give honest feedback about your employee’s performance. Identify what might be causing the problems. Allow the employee to respond to the issues raised and help them identify ways to improve. This might include:

  • clearer instruction or explanation of a task
  • more training
  • specific coaching
  • increased time
  • reviewing workloads
  • considering time management or organisation methods
  • better team working

TIP – It is important that you meet in a private, comfortable environment, away from distractions and interruptions

Time for Performance improvements

It may not be reasonable to expect improvements to poor performance to happen overnight. Agree with them what needs to happen next and the timescales. Generally, 1-3 months would be a reasonable timescale for demonstrating improvements.

Make notes of all discussions including;

  • a summary of the identified issues and why they are a concern
  • the employee’s response, including any identified reasons
  • agreed actions and timescales for review

Measuring Performance

You should agree on how performance will be monitored and measured. How will you both know if the necessary improvements have been achieved?

Having clear targets helps to remove ambiguity and ensures mutual understanding of expectations.

When discussing any performance shortfalls, it is important to check that the employee:

  • is aware that it is a task that is required of them
  • has been shown what is required
  • understands the gap between what is happening and what is required
  • knows what they need to do moving forward

Subtly comparing performance with employees in similar roles may be appropriate. This can provide a useful performance benchmark. Are they below average, average or above average?

Holding Tricky Performance Conversations

Key points for employers to remember when holding the meeting are to:

  • talk about the issue and not the person
  • have facts, examples and evidence available
  • relate it back to the business and what the business needs
  • explore the reasons why there is an issue
  • clarify details
  • summarise to check your understanding of the situation.
  • acknowledge any areas the business or you as the manager could also do differently
  • be clear what you need to see moving forward
  • provide reasonable support and time to help them achieve the required standard
  • keep in touch and give regular feedback to avoid surprises

Personal Factors Affecting Work Performance

Sometimes factors outside of work contribute to poor performance. If this is the case, consider if there are any temporary or permanent changes you could offer to help them. For example, changing their working pattern or hours.

Where there may be health or disability factors, get Occupational Health advice. (Jo hyper link to occ health blog here). Where workplace stress is an issue, seek support for a stress risk assessment.

Next Steps

How often you meet during an informal process depends on the progress and business impact.

Where the employee improves, meet with them and recognise how they’ve improved. Confirm your discussions in writing.

You can extend the review period if improvements are partial, or you would prefer a longer monitoring period. Communicate any performance gaps and hold further informal discussions as needed.

If improvements are not made in agreed time scales, consider a more formal approach.

Formal Performance Capability Meeting

You should always:

  • follow your disciplinary or performance capability policy
  • allow employees to be accompanied by a colleague or trade union representative.
  • give a right of appeal if a formal warning is issued

Formal and informal discussions are similar. In the formal discussion you should:

  • Explain that it is a formal performance discussion and the policy you are following
  • Demonstrate your company process is fair and consistent
  • Restate the continuing performance issues, giving specific examples.
  • Identify performance expectations with reference to their job position and performance plan.
  • Clarify the impact of the problems and possible consequences should things not improve
  • State the support provided to the employee and how this has impacted.
  • Discuss the on-going cause of the problem
  • Give the employee an opportunity to respond to the issues raised
  • Explore next steps and any additional support required.
  • Issue a formal warning if relevant
  • Write a discussion summary which the manager and employee should sign
  • Give the employee further reasonable time to improve their performance

You should seek expert advice if ill health or disability is impacting performance. Employers have a duty of care to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s role. Any disciplinary decisions must be fair and fully informed.

Final Formal Discussion and Possible Performance Dismissal

If an employee’s performance doesn’t improve, invite them to a final formal meeting.

Consider a permanent role change, redeployment or demotion to a more suitable role. This may require changes to pay and conditions.

It may be necessary to end an employment contract

  • if a role change isn’t possible, OR
  • where further formal warnings aren’t appropriate

A dismissal process must be reasonable, proportionate and follow your procedures. Seek advice if you’re not sure.

If you’re managing poor performance and need advice, get in touch today. Call Debbie on 07885 370054 or email debbie@concilium-hr.co.uk

Share This: