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Poor performers at work – workshop report

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Report from the TrainingZONE online workshop on the issue of Poor Performers at Work held here on 11 April and led by Penny Sharland, a management consultant with the Framework network:-


penny sharland: Hi. I'm Penny Sharland - the workshop leader for today. Our subject is managing poor performers. I'm a feelance management consultant working in the North of EWngland. Would you like to introduce yourselves before we begin?

penny sharland: I thought we might tackle a few topics in turn - how about starting with how managers identify the causes of poor performance? Do any of you have experience of this?

Chris Chapman: Hi I'm Chris Chapman ([email protected]).....part-time consultant working with quality management in vocational education..... first visit to such a workshop so interested to see how it works!

carole bryant: Hi, I'm Carole Bryant and work as a consultant. Much of my work relates to managing performance hence my presence here today!

penny sharland: We seem to have lost Richard. Welcome Chris if its ytour first time. Just type your comments and questions as you wish - we will try to get into a dialogue about a few topics in turn. Do either of you have opinions about which causes of poor performance are most difficult to deal with for managers?

penny sharland: Hi Sheyman

sheyman addas: Hi penny! my question is - how do you handle those employees who are unmotivated?

penny sharland: That's an interesting question and I was suggesting that the first step for us and for managers might be to establish what causes someone to be unmotivated.

penny sharland: Motivation can be developed through the organisation and team, by good management and supervision and by the individual themselves. Demotivating factors might include the external environment and the individual's personal history of poor employers for example.

sheyman addas: I think there are a number of causes for lack of motivation - lack of ownership for ones work, low job satisfaction etx.

carole bryant: Absence and sickness can often be a problem for managers as they feel they are intruding with personal factors even though they may have an impact on productivity. I also come across managers who do not address issues because they lack confidence which in turn relates to a lack of knowledge in the procedure. Regarding motivation...this week I have had the experience of some managers assuming that everybody is motivated the same way as them. By asking the question what is the reason for underperforming [maybe not using those words!] may unlock the clues for motivation.

sheyman addas: lets say that as a manager, you understand your employees reason for his/her underperformance but you are not in a position to influence or change events. What do you do?

penny sharland: You are right about the sensitivities towards sickness Carole. What can managers do to tackle the issues sensitviely?

Chris Chapman: yes 'lack of ownership' is certainly a central cause. But manager 'motivation' may show itself as 'directives' and then apparent lact of motivation by the managed

sheyman addas: Chris - I am not sure I understand?

carole bryant: If you are unable to change or influence events surely you should be honest with the individual and tell them just that. It may be a case that the person needs career advice or skills in managing assertively

penny sharland: Welcome to the workshop David

Chris Chapman: I was thinking - a manager tells his/herself motivated but then perhaps because of it treats staff in a way which deters motivation

David I Smith: Hi. What have I missed?

sheyman addas: Yes, thats true. However, I think its not only motivation that is a factor determining low performance. Also - dont you think that performance is quite relative?

penny sharland: Hi David. We've been talking about what factors cause poor performance such as motivation and what approaches can be used

carole bryant: Carole- Poor performance can often be caused by managers not outlining or reclarifying the standards that are expected. So to help the situation setting standards could be a starting point.

David I Smith: Doesn't it all come down to involvement and ownership: if a person feels involved in decision-making, then motivation will follow.

penny sharland: In terms of whether performance is 'poor' Blancahrd and Johnson (1981) suggest that we must look both at results and individual performance. Goals, praising and reprimands need to be short and focused, direct and immediate.

sheyman addas: David- I really aagree with you. In my experience this is what a number one cause is for poor/underperformance

carole bryant: Carole- I agree David so is there merit in involving the team in setting their own standards.

penny sharland: Hi Thomas. We only have a further 15 minutes of the workshop left can you follow what we've been discussing?

penny sharland: I wanted to introduce the issue of managing over-performance - does this follow the same lines?

David I Smith: The trouble is, there is a self-perpetuating cycle which can develop: Manager observes under-performance in one of his/her team and so involves them less; they become disheartened and disaffected and so their performance level drops even further...

Chris Chapman: How would you define over-performance

carole bryant: Carole- with overperformance is goal setting an option. The goals would need to be really stretching and contribute to their own development as well as job development. Could this person be involved in helping the underperformer is appropriate.

penny sharland: Over-performance can be a problem if for example it obscures under-performance in a nother aspect of the job - distrction you might say?

penny sharland: Sorry - distraction you might say?

carole bryant: Carole- I accept that Penny, would an appraisal or review meeting provide an opportunity to discuss all areas, under and over performance.

Chris Chapman: so to avoid distraction clear goals and performance criteria would be the critical elements

penny sharland: Other factors at work in over performance include compensating for stress at home, difficulties in being part of a team, or indeed a sign of strong competence where someone is genuinely under-utilised. All these factors require careful management . Do you have any experience of this aspect?

penny sharland: Yes Carole I think supervision and appraisal (not linked to pay awards) are vital in combating under and over performance.

penny shar: Our time is almost up. Thanks very much for your contributions to this workshop.

marie Chambers: In our company we have found that with quarterly appraisals, we have established and resolved any problems regarding motivation etc

penny shar: I'll leave you with three top tips for managing poor performance gleaned from today - think what poor performance really means, involve staff at all levels in plans and goal setting and remember to pay attention to supervision and appraisal the golden tools in your managers toolkit!

penny shar: Sorry Marue that you've only just joined us and we are going offline now. I hope you'll join us again on another Tuesday.

carole bryant: Thankyou Penny, my first visit!

marie Chambers: Thanks anyway Penny

Chris Chapman: Also thanks from me on an interesting first visit (thanks to the new freedom of free phone calls for internet access!)

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