Guidelines for getting back on track

Guidelines for getting back on track

When to use “Getting Back On Track” interventions
  • When you see signs of deteriorating or poor performance. Note: These issues usually get worse if neglected.
  • When you see behaviours that are unacceptable to you in relation to out Code of Conduct or professional standards.  It’s your job to maintain standards and bad habits are contagious.
  • After you have tried unsuccessfully with lower-level responses such as feedback or a mild “telling off”
  • Well before any question of discipline or warnings arises.  Small problems are easier to fix and we owe people fair warning we consider something unacceptable.
What specifically constitutes poor performance and unacceptable behaviour?

These include results below those standards expected of an employee and / or behaviours that are unacceptable as we (or you as the person’s manager) have defined them.  These are issues which would potentially become matters for our disciplinary process if not resolved through this kind of earlier but more formal intervention.  If however, we see a major or willful breach of our Code of Conduct or performance expectations and standards, such issues should probably be handled immediately through our disciplinary procedure. As a leader it’s your role to determine where poor performance or unacceptable behaviour exists.  If in doubt talk to your manager.

Poor performance and unacceptable behaviour is outlined in our Code of Conduct

There are also implied legal obligations including:

  • Duty of Obedience: not obeying lawful and reasonable instructions (assuming the task is neither dangerous, nor impossible, nor outside his/her terms of employment or outside his/her skill limitations).
  • Duty of Reasonable Care: not exercising reasonable care / skill in carrying out his/her job.
  • Duty of Faithful Service: not working honestly and faithfully.
  • Duty to Account: not accounting to the employer for all matters within his/her responsibilities which affect the employer’s interests.
What causes performance and behaviour problems?

Many causes! Ranging from not knowing what was expected (CLARITY and FOCUS) through to a lack of ABILITY (skill or competence) to weak or difficult RELATIONSHIPS. It could also be a problem in the personal or work ENVIRONMENT,  a REWARD or RECOGNITION issue or the lack of the right tools / materials or managerial SUPPORT.  The bottom line is that until we know what’s behind the lack of performance or problem behaviour we can’t prescribe a solution.  If an employee’s behaviour or performance doesn’t meet expectations there are of often causes for what you see which aren’t obvious.  Consider the following possible explanations.  Each explanation will suggest a different type of solution. When talking with the employee about the issues, you might ask questions selected from the list below, which seem possible explanations.

Context (The bigger picture around these issues) What is the heart of the problem? – How serious is this? – Who do I need to talk to before talking to the employee? And what facts or ‘evidence’ can I get to demonstrate the problem? – Who is telling me this and what are their motives? – Am I justified and objective? – What is the employee’s history with us / me? – Am I holding other employees to the same standards?
Clarity & Focus– Does the employee clearly understand what is expected? (Is responsibility clear?) – Do they know how to meet the standards expected? – Do they know how we measure their success?
Ability– Do they have the skills/competence to perform? Have they got the right tools/equipment to do the job?
Relationship– Are weak / difficult / unhelpful relationships with their manager, peers or customers (internal or external) a factor here?
Environment– Is some personal or non work problem a factor? – Is the culture in the work area a barrier to the employee’s performance? – Is some workplace change affecting the employee? e.g. new work system etc.
Reward & Recognition – Are the employee’s efforts and expertise being rewarded and recognised? – Do they regularly get feedback on performance and results? – Are there development opportunities for the employee?
Support– Does their manager, and their team regularly support the employee?
What are our legal risks? How do we protect against them?

Your approach to GBOT and actually getting performance back on track,  must recognise that people have a legal right to challenge our actions if they consider them unjustified or to have disadvantaged them.

So your process for handling GBOT people around poor performance must incorporate the principles of procedural fairness. These state employees have a right to……..

  • Know the detail of issues or problems being raised (included in our four step approach)
  • Support through the process (not compulsory except where disciplinary action or dismissal is a potential outcome, however might be useful where there are language or understanding issues which might make the conversation easier with a support person present).
  • Explain their actions (included in our four step approach)
  • Have their explanation genuinely considered (included in our four step approach)
  • Equality of treatment (not relevant if the same process is applied to all)
  • Fair and reasonable time to address issues and concerns and improve

These requirements should not be a problem in that our GBOT process has these considerations built in and this is not a disciplinary process.  If in doubt call your manager.

Tips for preparing the GBOT conversation

Think about…

  • Do I fully understand the issues? (Maybe check the CCARERS questions)
  • How serious is this? Is this at the level of discipline or dismissal?
  • How will I be able to establish beyond question there is a problem? (What facts, examples, times, dates or other evidence can I provide)
  • Am I clear that the right expectations were set (by someone)?
  • Who has direct/reliable evidence about any alleged poor performance or behaviour problem?
  • Am I clear what I want out of this conversation – can I describe what the business needs?
  • What’s my plan for a solution?
  • Should someone else be involved or should I handle it alone?

Your mind set should be…

  • Positive and solution oriented.
  • I have a responsibility to sort this out.
  • It’s our ‘house’ and we need to set the rules, standards and tolerances.
  • Committed to getting performance/behaviour back on track.
  • Open to learning about the issue and to suggestions the other person may make.
  • Firm that the problem needs to be resolved.

Be prepared to be assertive…

You will typically need to be assertive to address these problems promptly.  The natural human reaction is to avoid potential conflict situations but, as we’ve learned, these kinds of issues generally get worse with delay – not better.  Assertiveness in this context means…

  • Your resolve and persistence to get the problem fixed.
  • State the problem firmly but accurately.
  • A preparedness to face denial and be challenged.
  • Your willingness to reject unrealistic or insincere commitments to resolve the problem.
  • Push back if the person denies there is a problem or tries to avoid responsibility.
  • A willingness to spell out the consequences of solving or not solving the problem.
Typical remedies - performance / behaviour problems

When you get into the GBOT conversation you may discover one of the following causes for the lack of performance or unacceptable behaviour you have observed.  Listed below are some likely remedies, depending on the cause.

Lack of knowledge/skillRetraining, a ‘buddy’ or coach. More formal training. A Turnaround Plan that identifies the required improvement and put steps and resources in place to support the employee in making that improvement.
Genuine lack of awareness of job role, responsibilities, standards et cetera.Use the ‘GPBOT’ conversation to clarify expectations standards et cetera and identify both any issues that might prevent them being reached and a plan to get back on track.You need to ensure you have discussed expectations with your employees.
Lack of commitmentEither a firm (and documented)  reprimand including a reminder of expectations standards et cetera or think about moving to our Disciplinary Process if the lack of commitment has been willful and persistent.
Lack of resources/supportDiagnose what’s missing and provide or rebalance workload or modify expectations. A more formal Coaching Plan might be useful.
Personal/non-work factorReferral to EAP
Lack of improvementDiagnose reasons. Talk to your manager about using a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) giving an opportunity to improve in a defined timeframe but with the prospect of starting a Disciplinary Process if no reasonable progress is made.
Tips for monitoring progress and maintaining momentum
  • Give the employee some responsibility for the monitoring process.
  • Hold regular ‘on track’ conversations with the person.
  • Hold snap inspections (being reasonable about this).
  • Sit in and witness behaviours
  • Talk to colleagues and clients to check that progress is being made.
  • Make sure you are meeting your end of the bargain (providing the help you said you would)
  • If you aren’t getting results confront the situation early.  Don’t compromise on the standards.
  • If nothing changes consider a Performance Improvement Plan approach with the consequences of discipline and dismissal. (NB: your manager will provide you with guidance and a template for a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). The key ingredients are;
    • Defined improvement areas and standards;
    • How the employee will approach delivering on those standards;
    • Timeframe for delivery;
    • Review process and dates;
    • Possible consequences if the improvements are not delivered.
Tips if the problem persists

Sometimes things slide backwards!  Here are some subsequent problems you might face and tips to solve them.

Major relapse: Same problem recurs within a short time period.Explore. If no mitigating explanation is forthcoming escalate to a Performance Improvement Plan and then potentially disciplinary action. Refer your manager.
Different problem: Original problem ‘fixed’ but another emerges.Diagnose the new issue. Consider applying the proven approach to the new issue. Alternately escalate
Gradual fading of PerformanceAddress rapidly with restatement of expectations and outlining consequences if full performance isn’t restored.
Performance maintained but hostile/ unhelpful attitude appears.Explore then address the attitude. Our legitimate expectation is both performance and attitude matching our values. Target the symptoms of the poor attitude. Explore whether the person really wants to stay.
‘Work to rule’. (doing no more than the minimum required)Explore then address. Do they want to stay with us?
Finding fault in othersExplore. Confront the behaviour and set expectations