Poor Performance in the Workplace
Poor performance or underperformance in the workplace can lead to damaging and unproductive outcomes that can affect an entire organisation, such as loss of clients, poor corporate reputation, reduction in productivity, impact to profitability and resignation of high performers. Therefore, it is important for organisations to address poor performance as soon as it arises.
What is poor performance?
Poor performance can manifest itself in different ways, some examples of which
• low productivity;
• work that fails to meet quality standard;
• inability to meet realistic deadlines;
• poor self-management;
• short cuts/work arounds;
• poor attention to detail;
• not following company procedures;
• poor attitude;
• absenteeism; and
• regular lateness.
There are a number of factors both inside and outside of an organisation that may impact an employee’s performance. Factors inside an organisation can include lack of role clarity, poor communication on expected work standards, poor supervision, unreasonable expectations, insufficient training and lack of appropriate resources. External factors contributing to an employee’s poor performance could include physical and mental health issues, family issues, financial issues, and carer responsibilities. There are many more factors that could affect an employee’s performance and it is important for employers to consider these factors when dealing with poor performance to effectively address the issue.
Dealing with Poor Performance:
Poor performance should be addressed straight away. It is important for employers to choose the right level of action when dealing with underperformance. The three recognised levels of action for poor performance include the casual comment, performance counselling and formal discipline. Further details regarding these action levels are provided within the following.
1. Casual Comment
Minor performance concerns can be addressed through the casual comment approach. For example, if an employee has suddenly started to regularly arrive to work late, the first step would be to tell them that you have noticed they have been regularly late and to ask whether everything is ok. The casual comment should be done in private and remain confidential. The casual comment approach can help managers understand what the issue is and what they can do to support their employee. Even though they are casual, these comments should still be recorded.
2. Performance Counselling
Underperformance can also be addressed through the performance counselling approach. Performance counselling is a collaborative one-on-one process whereby the manager and employee try to solve a performance problem together. This may be an appropriate course of action where the performance matter is still in the preliminary stages and the casual comment has failed to make an impact. Before meeting with the employee, it is important that employers adequately prepare. Employers must be clear on the ‘gap’ between the current performance and the required performance and should have have specific examples of underperformance. Company policies and procedures and even the employees job description can also be
an effective tool in setting ‘benchmark’ performance. When meeting with the employee about their performance, employers should to try to
gain agreement with the employee that there is a performance issue. This can be done by providing direct and specific examples of underperformance. Employers should also explain the impact of the employee’s poor performance so they employee understands why there is a need for change. Once a performance issue has been established, the employer and employee should explore and agree on what is causing the problem. This could be as simple as the employee being unclear of expectations in the role, or not understanding the importance of a task. Once causal factors have been determined, the employer and employee should try to solve the performance problem. It is important that both the employer and employee both generate ideas during this stage. An action plan should be put in place and this plan should be reviewed after an adequate period of time. It is important that the performance counselling process is appropriately documented and followed up with written communication to the employee.
3. Formal Discipline Meeting
If the casual comment and performance counselling fail to solve the performance problem, the next step is a formal discipline meeting. Prior to the meeting, specific procedural or administrative requirements should be considered. The employer should also prepare for the meeting collating documents that may be relevant (e.g. company policies and procedures and/or the employee’s job description). The employee should be notified of the meeting and given the opportunity to bring a support person with them.
At the formal discipline meeting, the employer should explain to the employee when and how their performance is failing using specific examples. When employees are presented with detailed evidence (times and dates) of their poor performance it is harder for an employee to brush off allegations of poor performance. During the meeting it is important for employers to listen, consider and take note of the employee’s response. If the employee’s response isn’t satisfactory, the employer should explain what is expected, offer the opportunity to improve and be explicit on the consequences if their performance fails to improve. The meeting should be documented and followed up with written communication to the employee. Failure to improve performance can lead to disciplinary action ranging from written warnings to termination of employment. If an employee is terminated for poor
performance, it is important that employers have evidence to prove that they had a valid reason for termination and have provided procedural fairness to the employee.
These are the two primary matters a commission will consider if an unfair dismissal claim is received. There are also other types of claims an employee can make so it important to have documentation in place to defend such clams.
For more information on how to deal with poor performance in the workplace, contact
the CCIWA Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Working From Home
Working from home is not a new concept; however, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many workers and organisations to experiment with working from home. Whilst stay-athome requirements have now eased in many circumstances, the level of working from home has remained significantly higher than what it was prior to the pandemic. The key benefit of working from home on an ongoing basis is that it provides employees with increased flexibility which in turn may increase the productivity and retention of employees. It should be noted; however, that whilst some employees enjoy the
increased flexibility, other employees miss the face-to-face conversations and vibrancy of the office, so it is important to strike a balance between the two.
When considering entering a working from home arrangement with an employee, it is important for employers to consider how they will manage the employee when they are working from home, as well as workplace health and safety obligations. As a result, it is recommended that employers have a working from home policy in place. This policy should outline who is eligible to work from home, how an employee can make a request to work from home, how often the employee can work from home, and how the arrangement can be terminated. The policy should also outline the employee’s
obligations and responsibilities whilst working from home and may also include provision for a trial period, to assist in determining whether the working from home arrangement will be suitable to meet the needs of the business and the employee.
It is also important when entering into a working from home arrangement that employees are set clear performance standards, communication guidelines and the hours they need to be available to colleagues, management and clients. It is important to have regular one-on-one online or phone meetings with employees working from home to set expectations, track progress and assist with any issues the employee may have. The employee should also be included in team meetings. Employees who work permanently from home may also benefit from having semi-regular face to face
meetings (e.g. once a month).
As well as managing the employee, employers have a legal responsibility to protect the health, safety, and welfare of employees when they are working from home. Therefore, steps must be taken to ensure that the work area, equipment and access ways in the home provide a safe working environment. The most difficult aspect of managing employee health and safety requirements when working from home is the lack of control that the employer can exercise over the employee’s private residence. It is therefore important to equip employees who will work from home with the skills and
knowledge to make good decisions about their health and safety.
For more information on how to manage working from home arrangements, contact
the CCIWA Employee Relations Advice Centre on (08) 9365 7660 or email@example.com.
Senior Employee Relations Adviser