Addressing Poor Performance Documents

Virtual HR Department

Managing Performance

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It is important that poor employee performance be addressed in a consistent and timely manner. Failure to do so results in continued poor productivity from the poor-performing employee. Other employees may view the lack of corrective action or discipline as the company indicating that the employee’s performance is acceptable, resulting in them not working as hard or being as diligent in their performance. 

The longer the poor performance is allowed to continue, the more difficult it is to impose disciplinary action or termination. It appears the company condoned the poor performance for a long enough period that significant discipline or termination is not justified. The potential problems and negatives arising from a failure to address poor performance are far more serious, time-consuming, costly and difficult to deal with than are the personal feelings of discomfort of having to have a ‘negative’ or ‘critical’ conversation with the employee.

There are many possible causes of performance problems and/or gaps, including insufficient employee skills and abilities, inaccurate job descriptions, lack of motivation, personal issues, unrealistic performance standards, insufficient resources available to the employee, and inadequate orientation or training.
A company policy dealing with employee performance should be well known by all employees. When employees are hired and are given performance appraisals, policies should be reviewed and employees should be required to sign-off on their understanding and acceptance of the policies. By following this process, employers can be sure that all policies are known and understood by employees; it also increases the strength of the employer’s legal position should a disciplinary action or termination decision be challenged.

In most situations, you will be in a reactive approach to performance problems. The primary course of action is to communicate with the employee and establish a plan that both manager and employee will use to guide and monitor the performance-improvement process. 

With new employees, it is important to address performance issues immediately, within their probation period. By doing this, you will be able to assess progress and make an informed decision about retaining or terminating the employee at the end of the probation period.

A critical element of the performance-management process is to document everything: i.e., exact times of specific incidents, what happened, how it was dealt with, who dealt with it. It is important to maintain a file of this information for future reference.  

In the box at right, you will find a guide to addressing poor performance, which will assist you in preparing for and having meetings with a poor-performing employee. You will also find a template for a performance-improvement plan that you can use to direct, monitor and document the performance-management process, a sample letter to be provided to the employee upon initiation of the performance-improvement plan, and a coaching and communication record form that you can use to document meetings that do not require or result in a full performance-improvement plan being implemented.