Overview of the performance management process for managers

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In my previous post, I wondered how many managers were aware of the performance management process, a systematic way to address poorly performing employees.  My conclusion:  not many.  One reason is that performance management is often hidden beneath a larger framework that involves setting goals, doing performance reviews, and the like.  Dealing with performance problems gets lost in this.

In doing a Google search for “Performance Management”, I get results for the larger concept of managing performance of a workforce, which aspires holistically to improve how at the organizational level using goals, and career development as a starting point.  It is also associated with the “Performance Review” process (which suffices for some organizations as the only venue to “performance manage” their employees).  

These aspirations for holistic performance management of an entire workforce are admirable, and is an important thrust of this blog.  But if you have a problematic employee, you need to deal with the situation now.  If all you see when you look up “performance management” is how it is important to develop employees and establish goals, it’s easy to miss that this is the process you use to correct and remove toxic behaviors on your team.  No wonder it’s such a secret! 

“Performance Management” is advertised as an organizational solution (“OK everyone, let’s write goals by the end of the month!”), but it is a very practical individual solution.  For those management designers out there—consider getting your managers on board with the performance management process by starting with dealing with for low performers first, and then add style points (goals, development) later in developing your performance management process. 

So, without further ado, here is the high level “Performance Management” process for those individuals who are causing problems in your org.     Since this is a systematic process, this works for those technically-inclined managers who think that dealing with human problems is not in their purview. 

Note: If the behaviors improve to an acceptable level on any step, then simply return to step one:

  1. Identify the behaviors and impacts of these behaviors of the individual that needs to change.
  2. Give feedback on these behaviors and impacts to the individual.  Make sure you use performance-based language and state the expected level of behaviors.
  3. Check in to see if the behaviors have changed to an acceptable level.
  4. Give feedback to the individual on whether the observed behaviors have changed. 
  5. Ask the individual for methods that will help create change in behavior and identify ones that are reasonable and affordable to the organization.
  6.  Implement those methods, if any are identified.  Otherwise, move to step 7.
  7. Create a performance improvement plan (PIP), in some areas known as an “Action Plan” which is a repeat of the above steps, but this time documented in letter to the employee, and shared with the employee.  This is where “Progressive Discipline” kicks in.  It usually contains the actions taken thus far (see steps 1-6) with the expected improvements, resources provided to assist with the improvement, a timeline for improvement, and the consequences of not meeting the timeline, which should include the option to terminate the employee.
  8. Follow the plan.

It sounds like a lot of effort, but compared to you and your team dealing with a chronically underperforming employee, it is hyper-efficient. A good references is The Progressive Discipline Handbook: Smart Strategies for Coaching Employees (Book w/ CD Rom).

Starting with step 7 (or any time before that, really), a member of Human Resources department should be involved to assist you in composing the PIP, review prior feedback, getting the performance-based language right, and assure it follows the organization’s HR policies and process (if such a process exists—sometimes it’s hard to surface!)  This is what HR departments ought to be good at, so please leverage this resource!  Don’t do it alone!  It’s good to learn this process, and if you have a problematic employee, you can learn by doing!  And learning by doing is the best way to learn, anyway.

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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 .


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  1. […] that outlines a simple flowchart of when a manager should provide performance feedback, and when the performance management process should occur. It can be used in many contexts, and provides a simple outline of what a manger’s […]

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