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Managing poor performance

As a manager you are responsible for the overall output of your team and how it impacts the wider business. This means that it is vital that any performance issues from your employees are addressed promptly and effectively to minimise the impact to the organisation.

In this article, we discuss how to manage poor performance from your team and offer some tips on doing so.

Regular appraisals

Regular appraisals play a crucial role in managing and maintaining performance within a team. By conducting these assessments on a consistent basis, you can effectively monitor and evaluate the performance levels of your employees. This helps in identifying any areas where improvement is needed while providing an opportunity to recognise and acknowledge exceptional performance.

One key advantage of regular appraisals is that they allow managers to address any issues or concerns before they escalate into significant performance problems. By providing feedback and constructive criticism during these sessions, you can guide your employees towards achieving their goals and meeting the expected standards.

But what happens when the usual performance management process breaks down and an employee is performing poorly? And what steps should you take? Firstly, identify the issue and secondly, look at the causes of poor performance, only then you can decide what steps to take to improve the situation.

Identifying poor performance

In order to make a determination that an employee is not performing to an acceptable level it is essential that some sort of performance measure/standard has been identified in advance and the employee has been informed of and understands what is required of them. There are a range of measurement tools you can use:

Detailed job description - to set out the outputs/outcomes of the role.

Targets - the use of pre-set targets (common in a sales role) which are realistic and achievable can enable an employer to determine whether an employee is achieving the standard required of them.

Quality controls - may be useful where the provision of a quality service is essential, eg, customer facing roles.

Competency frameworks - which focus on the key behaviours that are required to achieve competent performance.

What causes poor performance?

When it becomes apparent that an employee is not performing to the required standard it is important to identify the underlying causes. Poor performance could be related to:

  • Lack of application to the role and tasks
  • Lack of capability/skills in general
  • Lack of capability due to illness or injury
  • Lack of capability due to burnout


Each of these situations will call for different remedial actions, emphasising the importance of correctly identifying the cause of poor performance.

Set clear targets

Have an informal meeting with the employee outlining the areas where their performance is in decline and agree upon goals/targets and a review date.

Review the performance at the review date and determine if there has been any improvement. If there has been an acceptably significant improvement then no further action should be necessary. If there has been some improvement then you could identify the areas where the employee needs further improvement and set a further review date.

If there has been no significant improvement you may contemplate the use of the disciplinary/dismissal procedure. The appropriate penalty will vary with the relevant disciplinary procedure, but it is strongly recommended that dismissal for a first occurrence is inappropriate. To ensure fairness of dismissal in these circumstances you should demonstrate that an employee was given sufficient opportunity to improve.

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