Poor Performance – Can You Prove It?

Sometimes as a manager you need to deliver bad news or negative feedback to a member of your staff. You might need to pick them up on an issue of performance that you’re not happy with, or where they are not meeting your standards.

This is not a comfortable thing to do. You need to be quite assertive about it, to be taken seriously – and so that your member of staff doesn’t just argue with you! To help you discuss the issue in the right way, you need evidence of the poor performance. You have to be able to show your team member what they’ve been doing wrong or below standard. Just telling them that they’re not doing what you want them to do, won’t have any impact, if you can’t prove it.

So you need to collect the evidence, so your team member can really understand what they’ve done wrong and how you want them to change. It’s not about collecting evidence just to use against someone – you really need it in order to get the message across and to make a difference.

Is one of your team repeatedly late coming into work? If so, you need a recording system that shows them when they came it late and how often it happens. If your staff clock in and out every day, you have your system. If not, you need to look for another way of recording the time.

Does a member of your staff keep making errors in their work? How many times have they made a mistake and what was the result of it? Again, you need to create a way of recording the error rate and the consequences.

When you can show the proof of poor performance, it is much easier to discuss the issue with the particular member of staff and, between you, work out what needs to be done in order to improve their performance.

We discussed the importance of collecting evidence at one of my interactive workshops. Click here to watch the short video and find out more.

How do you collect evidence of performance issues in your business?

How to Handle Disciplinary Issues and Help Employees Improve Their Performance

It is important to handle any disciplinary situation quickly, fairly and appropriately.  Small businesses often find it easier to deal with an incidence of misconduct informally particularly when the issue is minor in nature.  Hold an informal meeting to ensure that the employee understands why their behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and seek agreement/agree steps to ensure that the behaviour does not continue or recur. 

If informal warnings have not produced the desired result and the unsatisfactory behaviour continues, the next step is to arrange an investigation by an impartial Manager.  An investigation should include review of HR records and any previous warnings/issues that may have occurred, talking to other Managers with knowledge of the misconduct and interviewing any witnesses.

Should the investigation indicate that there is a disciplinary case to answer then you will need to invoke a formal disciplinary procedure.  Most companies operate a 3-stage process: (1) written warning, (2) final written warning, (3) Dismissal.  There is no legal obligation to start at the beginning of the procedure.  The type of warning issued will depend on the seriousness of the offence.

In the event of an act of gross misconduct, i.e. an act of such a serious nature that it fundamentally breaches the contractual relationship between employer and employee then you have the right to dismiss the employee immediately without notice or pay in lieu of notice.


Despite every effort, even the best run business may encounter problems of misconduct from time to time.

Misconduct can range from a minor incidence of unsatisfactory behaviour to an act of violence, theft or malicious damage.  However, the one thing they all have in common is that if handled incorrectly they could not only damage your reputation but leave facing the prospect expensive unfair dismissal claims and employment tribunals.

It is often easier to deal with a minor incidence of misconduct informally by simply explaining to the employee why their behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and seeking agreement/agree steps to ensure it does not continue or recur.  However, if this does not have the desired result, or closer investigation reveals that the problem is bigger than initially thought, then it might be necessary to invoke a more formal approach. Most companies operate a 3-stage process: (1) written warning, (2) final written warning, (3) dismissal.

Avoidance is better than cure!  The key to protecting your business is to have in place a clear and fair disciplinary procedure that defines what behaviours you consider to be acts of misconduct relevant to the type of business you undertake and that this is communicated to every member of staff at the outset of employment.  The procedure should cover a range of circumstances, the different types of work performed by your employees, health and safety issues, risks to your business, timekeeping, use and care of company equipment, bullying/harassment, claiming expenses and use of email and internet.

Finally, whatever approach you take, always keep full and detailed records.  This is just as important for minor breaches as it is for acts of gross misconduct and will ensure that if the behaviour occurs or escalates you will find it easier to defend any subsequent claims of unfair dismissal and protect the reputation of your company.