Poor performance is primarily the difference between what the judge (coach, manager, company, teacher) expects and what is delivered by those being judged (athlete, staff member, executive, student).

You can break it down in different categories as it is not always about the volume of work, deadlines or customer relations.

The Categories

Category 1:

This is the one that everyone thinks of. It covers work content, i.e. poor quality, low quantity, slow turnaround times, tardiness, poor communication.

Category 2:

This category covers company handbook guidelines, procedures and company rules. Endless days off, stealing, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, ignoring health and safety, intoxication.

Category 3:

This category covers employees ‘at home’ issues that affect their work like, unfortunately, an abusive partner.

Now that we have clarified that, let’s look at the process.

Where To Start

First, identify the category, and you could invest in a helpful HR manual to guide you effectively. You start with interviews. The questions and feedback therein identify the problem and the causes. You then explore possible remedies such as restructuring the job scope or description, upskilling or seeking out mentoring, coaching or therapy. Remedies can be the company supplying transport from an area that is not serviced by public transport.

Before trying to find causes, make sure the employee fully understands ‘what’ is the exact issue and the difference between what needs to be delivered and what is delivered. Also, clarify whether the issue is increasing.

Here are some suggested questions to propose to the employee:

  • Are you (employee) aware it is increasing, and do you understand the consequences to the company and yourself?
  • Are you aware of how serious this issue is and how very seriously the company views this?
  • Do you feel you do not have the skills required to perform the job, and if not, do you think you could learn them if trained? When you have them, do you think you would be capable of using them?
  • Do you want to perform the job well, is the outcome important to you? If not, what would make the outcome important to you?
  • Is something stopping you from performing that you don’t have the authority or capability of changing? E.g. extreme temperatures, the performance of another colleague, network downtime, inadequate office equipment, chronic illness.
  • How can the company help remove these barriers or re-engineer the work process? 

Distinction Of Causes

Some causes are a combination of employer and company problems, e.g. bad equipment, creates low motivation. It should be very clear, though, what is their issue and what is the company’s issue?


  1. a) Bad quality equipment, lack of tools to perform, risky or uncomfortable working conditions:

a.i) The company should commit to fixing the problems which might require a safety audit or an agreed phased spend.

  1. b) Productivity bottlenecks, rules and procedures ignored, poor management, uncorrected faults

b.i) Work re-engineering, enforcing company procedures, start targeted performance reviews of managers.

  1. c) Salaries, overtime quantity, work/life balance.

c.i) Review salary compared to market levels, review why excessive overtime is taking place, get a consultants advice on how to get your company in a position to offer your staff better work/life balance.

  1. d) Poor recruitment: the job was not what it was advertised to be, i.e. not diverse or no growth possible or too difficult.

d.i) Review HR recruitment procedures urgently which might involve training HR staff or an HR manager. Plan an advancement program for the staff member or redeployment. If underqualified and upskilling is not feasible, then redeployment or a new job description is the right thing to do.

  1. e) Team incompatibility due to personality clashes, sexual harassment, culture-work clashes, different cultural values, poor supervision.

e.i) Redeploy the clash, redesign jobs so that culture clash items can be done by cultures that find it acceptable, bring in a team coach or culture sensitivity coach, put the supervisor under performance management.


Performance management is not about being a detective with a stick called Disciplinary Hearing. It is far from that and starts early. You must take pro-active steps early on and implement fixes early on. It requires time, input, commitment, support and assessments on an ongoing basis.

If you do not have the time to do this then don’t ignore it, bring a professional who can work side-by-side with you developing a happy, productive team. Don’t rush through a performance appraisal into a disciplinary hearing and execute an unfair dismissal as you may end up owing a hefty payout for unfair dismissal. Call Fresh HR Insights today to protect your assets.