Most people wish to work in a harmonious workplace, where everybody gets along, everybody does their job and is a valuable member of the team. This utopian ideal will often mean that confronting performance management issues is a threat to this balance, and can often be ignored until the situation becomes critical.
Take the example of an underperforming worker who believes they outrank their direct manager, whether due to age or experience and who is quite abrasive when this belief is challenged, confronting and addressing poor performance in this instance can be a daunting task. This is not a rare situation. Quite often the issue has been swept under the rug, and dealt with passively and indirectly for a period of time. One day the situation blows up, the manager loses their cool, and wants to “Get rid of” this worker because they’ve had enough.
Unfortunately, the advice provided to the manager in this instance is something they don’t want to hear, and gives them the belief that their hands are tied in being able deal with poor performing staff and that the employment relationship is heavily one-sided. Whilst these beliefs hold an element of truth, this situation could have been handled better to wrest the perceived advantage away from the worker, the way to do this is with effective performance management.
The first key issue here is the skills of the manager in the situation, with this no doubt being a learning experience in their career. It would firstly be assumed that they had a say in the recruitment of the worker, and were then left to induct, train and manage them. The manager themselves were potentially appointed due to their operational and financial nous whilst their people management skills were not heavily explored during their selection for the role. This follows a common perception that business is all about dollars and cents, disregarding the human element in being able to affect the bottom line. On the contrary, should this manager now proceed to terminate this worker’s employment as their first course of action, the risk of facing an unfair dismissal claim is significant, ultimately costing their company time and resources, and may even result in the re-instatement of the poor performing worker.
Should the manager’s weakness in performance management have been identified and addressed through support, training and clear procedures, it is likely the worker’s poor performance would have been addressed and documented early in their employment, putting them on notice that should they continue in that manner, their ongoing employment may be at risk.
There is no doubt that there are challenges for managers and employers in dealing with workers who choose not to perform as required, and are willing to push the boundaries. These challenges arise from both the psychological element of avoiding confrontation and are further complicated by the industrial relations laws that dictates how such matters in the employment relationship should be and perceived to be handled. By equipping managers with the support and guidance to deal with these issues, they can then redirect their energy to ensuring the profitability of the business they have been hired to successfully manage.
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