The Performance Management Process: Were You Aware of It?

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In John Hodgman’s humorous book, “The Areas of My Expertise,” he has sections entitled, “Were you aware of it?”  It’s a parody of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and sample entry is, “Emily Dickenson collected little soaps . . .  — WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?”

I would like to add an entry:  “There is a way for managers to systematically deal with poorly performing and poorly behaving employees – WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?” 

It’s true!  It’s called the Performance Management Process.  Imagine you’re a manager and you start getting complaints from your staff of an employee acting in a belligerent manner or creating ongoing delay in projects.  Or you observe an employee not meeting deadlines.  Or the quality of work is consistently below the others’.  Something should probably be done about this, and as the manager, this is squarely your job.  What to do? 

You start by “Performance Managing” the employee.  If the employee doesn’t get better, it then morphs to “Progressive Discipline” (which is a subset of Performance Management).    On top of that, if the employee’s performance or behavior does not improve, you have the ability to terminate the employee at the end of the “Performance Management Process.”  In addition, employees frequently remove themselves (that is, quit) via this process, removing the perceived messiness of terminating an employee.  In addition, many employees actually get better—they improve, change their behaviors, and become more valuable through this process– turning a negative in your organization to a positive.  WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?

I’m not sure that many managers are aware of it, given the sheer number of low performing or poorly behaving individuals found in the workplace, and given how long they are able to continue the poor performance and bad behavior.  It is entirely plausible that a manager—even an experienced manager– has never heard of “Performance Management,” and thus never does it. 

Here are some scenarios where a manager never picks up on the performance management concept: 

a)      An individual contributor (who was never performance managed, naturally), gets the promotion to manage a team.  The new manager starts managing using techniques observed as an individual contributor, which doesn’t includes performance management.

b)      An MBA or consultant gets hired in who has deep expertise in finance, marketing, strategy, etc., but never learned the nuts-and-bolts of performance management.

c)       An experienced manager always had a team with strong performers, or, perhaps, tolerated the lower performers, reconciled to the fact that there are always good ones or bad ones.

d)      A manager is good at dealing with the technical aspects of the job, but the human aspect, that’s messy and cannot be resolved, so it is something that just has to exist.

e)      Manager is too busy to deal with this, could get to it later, perhaps.

f)       The HR department has specific performance management guidelines and steps.  However, if a manager never interacts with HR about a problem, the manager never learns about these steps.

g)      The HR department does not have performance management steps documented for managers, and the HR department’s representatives, too, are unfamiliar with “performance management.”

In all of these cases, the topic of “performance management” just never gets to the manager who is experiencing problems.  If the manager is in any way adverse to conflict, as many managers are, then it is almost a guarantee that the manager will not seek out ways to resolve the situation, and instead find ways to avoid it, and never gets in on the “performance management” process.

People on the team may complain about a poorly behaving co-worker, or someone who isn’t pulling their weight, and a manager unfamiliar with “Performance Management” will then be put in the position to make up how to deal with it. Here are some courses a manager unfamiliar with performance management will approach dealing with poor performers: 

–Ignore it

–Ask someone on the team to talk to the poor performer

–Move the person to another group

–Highlight what a great performer the person is in other areas, and, if possible, promote the poor performer for these reasons

–Consider the poor behavior as a necessary sacrifice to get the other expertise

–Move on to another job and let the next manager deal with it

–Send the person to training (it’s not really important which training, as long as the person gets some training)

–Have the people who complain stop working with the person with the poor behavior

–Ask the people who complain to adjust to and work around the person with the poor behavior (and to stop complaining)

–Tell the low performer about the complaints from the team.  If no change, then tolerate it, and inform the complainers that the person is aware of the situation.  Then tolerate/ignore.

–Wait until the annual review, and document the poor behavior there.  (An offshoot—don’t mention anything on the review.) Then tolerate it until the next review (where you can either mention or ignore it).

Given that I have personally observed managers employing all of these methods for dealing with poor performers, this indicates that many managers—dare I say most?—aren’t even familiar with the “Performance Management” process.     

So don’t fear, managers!  Performance Management is a process that you can use to improve how employees behave and perform.  Also, as an added feature, it is a process for removing the employee if there is no improvement.    In my next post, I’ll provide my quick overview of the performance management process and how it is used to deal with underperforming employees.  For the time being, a sampling of Performance Management process can be found here.

So let’s hear it.  Performance Management:  WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?

Related Posts:

Overview of the performance management process for managers

Public feedback drives performance down and doesn’t count as performance management

How to use behavior-based language to lead to evaluation and feedback

How to use behavior-based language to lead to evaluation and feedback

How to neutralize in advance the annual toxic performance review

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


8 Responses to “The Performance Management Process: Were You Aware of It?”


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