Informal intervention

Guide to managing a performance issue informally.

Early intervention is key to resolving performance issues and can be started by the employee or manager. Managers should make certain they have a clear and unbiased understanding of what is happening and prepare before meeting with the employee. It may be worth checking with other managers who work nearby, or interact with your staff member, to check your assessment. Always consider whether there may be underlying factors which are contributing to or causing the performance issues.

Even a single incident of performance below the required level calls for some feedback to the employee — it can just be an informal comment rather than a meeting.

Improving performance

Not every performance issue needs a structured process. Explore other options for improving performance, such as:

  • the use of a written task list (paper or electronic)
  • continuous feedback
  • a buddy
  • changes to allocation of tasks
  • identification of relevant training
  • coaching
  • mentoring
  • more regular performance catch-ups where feedback can be given.

If an employer does not address an issue then the level of performance can become ‘normal’, which can be really hard to change.

Not addressing performance issues can result in high performing staff reducing their outputs or leaving. They feel they’re doing extra work to keep things going or it’s acceptable to perform at a lower level.

Don’t draw attention to the situation in front of others, but don’t be shy about managing performance issues. It’s also important to remember that negative feedback should be given privately.

A quick check-in with the employee to discuss the employee's performance should happen even if the performance has improved to a satisfactory level. This enables both parties to acknowledge that the issue has been resolved. The employer should provide ongoing feedback both positive and negative to the employee and should work with the employee to make sure that performance improvements are kept up.

More formal action may need to be taken if the employee's performance does not improve including a performance improvement plan , issuing formal warnings and ultimately if the issue can’t be resolved, termination of employment.

As an employee: As a manager:
If you have a problem doing your job then let your manager know as soon as possible. If you work to correct a performance issue early then it can often be done informally.
Work with your manager to find solutions to fix the issue. Remember that an employee's performance can be affected by underlying factors such as personal problems (eg health and family) or problems in the workplace (eg difficult relationships or conflict with co-workers). Consider these factors and how they can be addressed (eg flexible work arrangements, EAP).

Use the help and advice offered, work positively with your manager and fully engage with any performance improvement process.

Make notes of meetings, of issues as you go and of any help that you need.

Work positively with your employee to grow their performance; ensure they get all required training and support including on the job support, the right tools and development. Document your actions.

The employer and the employee should keep a written record of all discussions relating to any performance issues. Having this information on hand will help both if any further action is needed.

The steps to informally manage a performance issue will be the same but the length of time you need to give for improvement depends on factors such as: the type of role, nature and size of your organisation. For example, a sole charge role needs to ‘come up to speed’ on the job very quickly, while a worker in a bank will have more training to do, and a larger organisation can support time to develop.

Step-by-step guide for informal management

Here is an easy to follow step-by-step guide to managing a performance issue informally:

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