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performance management

How to manage underperforming employees

Managing people comes with the territory of running a business, and having to deal with an underperforming or uncooperative employee is something most business owners will encounter at one stage or another. 

Knowing how to deal with an underperforming employee can be challenging, but it’s important as an employer to ensure you are handling these matters in a structured and balanced way. 

When it comes to matters relating to an employee’s performance or conduct, approaching it in a prompt, structured and consistent manner will prove to have the best outcome possible. Having a plan when it comes to performance management for employees who are either underperforming or not being cooperative is imperative. 

For some employers, exploring other options before heading down the performance management route can seem like a better option. Ignoring the problem and giving the employee the benefit of the doubt is a common approach but unfortunately, this rarely works and it can often cause more issues with other staff who are doing the right thing and are not happy with the poor management of the situation. Transferring the employee within the business may also seem like a short term fix to the issue but the inevitable will occur and again in this process, other employees who are doing the right thing may also be disgruntled by the approach. 

Performance management can be confronting for many employers but dealing with it in a timely and professional manner is far better than not. Having a performance management policy not only helps streamline this process for you as the employer but also sets the expectation for employees.

Below we outline steps you can take for a balanced and outcome driven performance management process:

Be prepared 

Ensuring you are well prepared for the performance management meeting is essential. Not only to prepare yourself for what can be a stressful conversation but also gather any evidence and notes to make sure you cover off on all points that need to be discussed. 

Provide the employee notice of the meeting

Prior to the meeting, the employee should be notified of the meeting in writing and provided with an outline of the matters of concern that will be discussed. The employee should also be notified that if they wish, they could bring along a support person to the meeting. 

The meeting should be treated as private and confidential, and be held in a private meeting space. 

Commencing the meeting

Always ensure you begin the meeting by explaining the purpose of the meeting and the roles of each person present. It is always advisable as an employer, to have someone assisting you with the meeting, this will allow you to focus on the key issues and conversation whilst the assistant takes notes and records outcomes. It is important to note that the employee’s support person role is to simply support the employee and not advocate or make out a defence for the employee, the employee will need to speak/respond for themselves.

During the meeting

This is an opportunity for you to talk through each of the issues around the employees performance and allow them a chance to respond.

It’s important to provide evidence related to both performance or conduct where appropriate and explain why it’s deemed unsatisfactory. 

After comment and discussion around each issue, in consultation with the employee, discuss ways that may assist them to improve. 

Closing the meeting 

Minutes of the meeting should be noted and include the meeting outcomes and next steps. 

The employee is to be provided with a letter outlining the outcomes of the meeting and expectations moving forward, the employee should sign a copy acknowledging receipt for best practice. 

All notes and any letters issued to the employee should be filed in the employee’s file for future reference.

Contact us for a confidential chat

If you are unsure how to manage underperforming employees within your business, contact us for a confidential conversation. 

We have worked with business owners in guiding them through the performance management process step by step and we can assist in developing effective performance management policies that suit your business needs.


Need Help

Workplace Partners is available to assist you with any queries on 1300 116 400 or email [email protected].

The information contained within this article is not legal advice and is for general advice only, to obtain specific advice for your business contact us on 1300 116 400 or email [email protected], this advisory service is available to all subscribers at no additional cost.

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