Tips for managing under performance

I often get asked by clients how can they terminate the services of an employee who is not performing.

Managing day to day performance effectively has many benefits for both the employee and organisation. Managing an under-performing employee takes time, patience, objectivity, and discipline in following the correct process to avoid costly mistakes. The objective of the poor performance counselling session is to improve the performance of the employee, and does not always have to end in termination of the employee’s services. By adopting this approach, it is possible to turn the situation around. However, if there is no improvement over time, then management can terminate the employee’s services after due process has been followed.

  1. Schedule a meeting with the employee and state the expectation of the employee relative to the employment contract and job description. Be specific about the job requirements. Prior to this meeting, issue a letter to the employee so that they can prepare in advance.
  2. At the meeting provide positive feedback to the employee and state the gap between the expectation and the current performance level. The standard or expectation should be clearly defined. Provide examples as evidence of technical issues and behaviour that are poor performance areas. Be specific. Explain the impact of the poor performance on the business, client and the rest of the team.
  3. Ask the employee to explain the reasons for their underperformance (Is it a training issue, personal problems or lack of experience?). Listen to the reasons and take them into consideration during the counselling sessions. Management need to demonstrate (evidence) that they provided support, coaching, objectivity, fairness, and training to the employee to resolve the problem.
  4. Ask the employee how they propose to remedy the performance issues raised. They need to take ownership for their poor performance, development and the action plan.
  5. Ask the employee what support or coaching they still require from management to meet the performance expectations. Management needs to commit to this support.
  6. Jointly agree what improvements will be required, be specific and use SMART principles see previous blog. Agree to an action plan and timelines for the improvement required.
  7. Agree a date for the next counselling session. 3-12 weeks should be sufficient time, depending on the position, seniority of employee and tasks to be completed.
  8. Ensure all meetings are documented (evidence) and that it reflects the above points. The record should also reflect the response from the employee (Audi alteram partum rule). This demonstrates fairness in the process.
  9. Stick to the agenda and try not to get side-tracked by other issues that are raised during the meeting by the employee.
  10. Inform the employee of the POSSIBLE consequences of not improving viz possible termination of employment. First prize would always be to improve their performance.
  11. Ensure that the employee signs the document and acknowledges that they have read and understood the contents thereof. Give a copy to the employee and keep a copy on the personnel file.
  12. If there is no improvement in performance, conduct a second counselling and third counselling session. If there is still no improvement, then a poor performance enquiry needs to be held which could possibly lead to the termination of the employee’s services, pending the outcome.
  13. If their performance has improved, give the employee recognition for the improvement and close the process. Inform the employee that the process has closed.