Performance Management | The do’s and the don’ts



By Gemma Davidson

Gemma Davidson

Managing people involves managing every day, and not just on a formal basis once or twice a year. To effectively manage people, every leader should be aware of the three things employees want to know:

  • What is required of me?
  • How am I performing?
  • What is my future?

It is important to communicate openly and honestly with your staff throughout the year.  This will ensure your expectations are clear, they know how they are performing, what they need to improve on and where they fit in the organisation.  Some basic tips for managing people every day are:

  • Always acknowledge staff
  • Listen first and be approachable
  • Have an open door policy
  • Model appropriate behaviour
  • Encourage and reward – informally and formally
  • Follow through
  • Share the vision
  • Be clear about expectations and drive accountability

Don’t underestimate asking “Are you ok?”

Formal Performance Management

Prior to organising a sit-down with your employee be clear and transparent about how the meeting is going to run and your expectations of them. Ensure you give them enough time to prepare, I would suggest at least a week’s notice. It is important to set the tone prior to organising the discussion as a two-way conversation. Ask employees to provide a written self-evaluation before the meeting and be clear that you expect it to be about 60% them talking and 40% you. Lastly, plan plan plan! Take 30 minutes a few days before the performance appraisal to plan out some of the key points that you want to cover so you have a structure. Some other tips include asking their peers, other managers or clients about their performance.

Review meeting do’s:

  • Allow employees to evaluate their own performance
  • Actively Listen
  • Don’t just focus on the numbers
  • Talk about past performance concerns already raised
  • Keep the meeting professional
  • Provide constructive feedback
  • Dedicate equal time to past, present and future
  • Discuss and agree on SMART goals

Review meeting don’ts:

  • Postpone at last minute or move more than twice
  • Surprise an employee with a performance concern in the meeting for the first time
  • Underestimate what feedback means to employees

Managing Underperformance

Hard Approach

When taking the hard approach to managing underperformance one of the common mistakes made is moving to formal performance management too quickly. You need to have gone through an informal process and be clear with the employee that you are leading down the path of formally managing their performance. Another common mistake is failing to follow due process and best practice. This can mean failing to offer support to an employee and failing to give them 24 hours’ notice for a performance appraisal. The last common mistake is not seeking a response from an employee, so, not providing them with the opportunity to have their say. You need to give them the opportunity to improve and within a reasonable timeframe.

Soft Approach

We also see common mistakes made when taking the soft approach. These mistakes include not taking any action and letting an employee’s underperform effect team morale. Underperforming employees will in particular impact high achievers as they will look to the low achievers and find themselves despondent and not wanting to raise their productivity. When taking a soft approach with underperformers you will find that you have presenteeism within your team. Presenteeism means individuals are turning up to work and they’re here but they’re not being productive and in a lot of cases they’re distracting others. Presenteeism is the silent killer.


When managing underperformance it is important to have a conversation with the employee and pinpoint the behaviour or the skill that they’re lacking. Be specific about your observations and be prepared to actively listen to what is going on within an informal discussion. Don’t be afraid to be clear about your expectations going forward even if there are mitigating circumstances for an employee. Ensure you take the time to check-in and have informal meetings with an employee before you end up in formal performance management. Taking them out of the office will provide a different setting and make them more comfortable so they will hopefully open up a bit more.

Finally, if you have Human Resources within your business then they should be there guiding you and providing you with support.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about the points raised in this article, please contact Gemma Davidson our People and Culture Manager for assistance.

An Important Message

While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information in this publication, this firm and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents.  Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.



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