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Poor performing line manager


“I have inherited a poor performing line manager in my team, the issues are:

·         There is no team motivation in his department

·         He is not spending anytime training & developing his new team members

·         He is not addressing the poor performers in the team

 As a result of this his department has the highest staff turnover and sickness absence of the 5 departments. His operating costs are 30% higher than the other departments (Recruitment costs/overtime payments)

 Some other facts:

·      There are no personal problems behind this, he is well paid and knows he will not get a job with the same salary/benefits easily.

·      The previous middle manager/executive allowed this manager to perform this way.

·      This line manager took a grievance out against the previous middle manager/executive for bullying when he was approached about his poor performance.

·      Although there were clear facts of poor-performance the organisation upheld the complaint to appease the situation.

·      The company owners will not consider paying him off or transferring him!

 I am a newly appointed middle manager, I have not had to face a poor performing manager issue before. Is there a training organisation who has experieence of helping middle managers address poor performance at line manager level?



4 Responses

  1. Poor Performance

     Hi Ann,

    Sorry to hear that you’ve been let down by the owners and previous managers by letting this situation continue. Unfortunately we do hear that ‘conflict avoidance’ like this occurs all too frequently.

    Having experienced this first hand and also when advising Senior managers on how to deal with Line Manager performance, there are ways and means of handling these often delicate issues.

    It is fundamentally a performance management issue…but how you deal with it, create awareness of performance expectations, and communicate it in a non threatening way – whilst continuing to have a professional relationship are skills that are crucial to the successful outcome.

    Happy to advise further and talk about experience in dealing with and advising other Senior Managers through the same situation.

    Look forward to hearing from you


    Kind regards





  2. can I question your proposed solution?

    Hi Ann

    you have perfectly presented a very common scenario in modern Britain, thank you…..

    In the past:-

    a)  the person has been able to get away with poor performance~the precedent is set that poor performance is acceptable

    b) when an effort was made to get him to improve his performance it failed due to a lack of senior management support~the precedent is set that an attempt to improve poor performance is not acceptable

    c) the lack of motivation within this person’s department suggests that the poor performance is spreading~within the organisational culture the problem is getting more widespread.

    Whilst the guy himself was the sole problem, the problem is now multiplied: unless the senior management/owners of the business change their approach to poor performance, no sensible middle manager is going to be prepared to risk his or her career by attempting to address this issue, regardless of their training: they will justly be concerned that no matter how right they are they will end up branded a bully for doing their job properly.

    In my opinion you now have a problem that is beyond a simple "training" solution: senior management/owners need to be "sorted out", the problem manager needs to be "sorted out" and the overall culture needs to be "sorted out".

    paying him off rewards poor performance and transferring him simply allows him to continue to damage the organisation somewhere else

    Sorry to be negative




  3. Getting back to basics

     Hi Ann

    Poor you – not a nice situation to inherit.  In a situation like this, my advice to managers is to go back to basics and make sure they are done thoroughly before proceeding (forgive me if you’ve already done these).

    Is the individual crystal clear what behaviours are expected of them?  Asking them what their understanding of their key objectives can be enlightening.  (Check they have some SMART objectives – and that they appropriate.   You might want to add some that include something around developing the skills in their team/having regular appraisals with his team/reducing staff turnover etc);

    Having had the above conversation,  you then need to give them feedback about what behaviours you have observed.  Focus on what you see, not what you believe.  Rely on facts, not supposition or hearsay.  Don’t try and guess the motivation or intention behind what you see.  

    You can then state what behaviours you want in future and at that point, you can discuss whether they need any development in order to deliver the improved performance.

    I hope this helps but please get in touch if you need more detail.







  4. Be prepared, and then look for an outcome rather than an output

    Hi Ann,

    It sounds like you are in a very frustrating situation which must be very sapping for you.

    I had a look at your other post prior to answering, and I assume they are linked. In both you are looking for a training provider to address matters. I don’t think it is as simple as that, as has already been mentioned.

    You have been focussing on this individual in your most recent post – if you are to deal with this successfully you will need to look more widely than the individual. I always think about these scenarios in a form of "Individual, Team, Task".  You sound like you are gearing up for a battle – which it may be – but in order to go to battle you need a plan together with support and additional resources in place. Without them you are unlikley to succeed.

    You have said that you are looking at how to deal with the individual. You have quoted some good evidence in relation to how the person is not performing.  Do they have any additional personal objectives they are being measured against?

    With regard to the task side, what policies do you have in place to support whatever action you might want to take? Does this manager have a job description?

    And regarding the team side, what support will management give you? Based on what you have said so far, if they say they will support you, if I was you I would be asking one to come in with me so that the support was tangible and the individual knows that they are not up against just you.

    If any of these three aspects are not in place and robust, you need to think carefully about how you approach the matter and set realistic goals – because it is already apparent that the manager may not play ball and you may well then not get any further forward. And if you do address it without them being in place and set unrealistic goals it may have a detrimental effect on you – which you need to be aware of.

    Moving on to the training provider – as someone has already said (I think it was Rus) this is not a training solution matter. In your last post (if I can recall correctly) you talk about a training provider who didn’t provide what you wanted and an ‘HR guru’ who had little effect. You are either failing to define or communicate your needs adequately or you are using providers and individuals who are ineffective (or both).

    You will get loads of people who will offer you courses or off the shelf talks – happily taking your money but having little impact on the situation (as you have already discovered). You appear to be asking for people to deliver outputs, yet your requirement is an outcome. You require an authentic partnership approach.

    My suggestion would be to define where the person is now (regarding performance), where you want them to be / consequences of not getting there and define exactly what support you have in place regarding management and policies.

    Then speak to some of the respondents to possibly this and your last email (and other people) and explain what you have (as per your last paragraph) and find out how they would help you address the issue. Be explicit as to your desired outcome (not output) and ask them what they would charge for achieving that – if they would take it on. Agree you will only pay if the outcome is achieved. They may not go with your desired outcome, but may suggest an alternative one. By doing this you will find out how big an issue others see it as. 

    Taking this approach you will:

    • Find out the size of the issue as others see it.
    • Be outcome focussed.
    • Be of little interest to the types of providers you have apparently worked with in the past.
    • Enter into a true partnership.
    • Have a greater level of support for yourself.
    • Have done all that you can to deal with an under-performing individual, improve business performance and implement the start of a culture change.

    I hope that helps. If any of it doesn’t make sense, I’m happy to explain further.



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