You are a Very Naughty Boy

Performance management

I was talking to one of our HR managers the other day.

He was ranting about one of our employees.

This employee (let’s call him Frank) has been struggling for a while, his attitude is a little, how can I put it, negative, he always has a reason why things can’t be done rather than a suggestion about what could be done.

The HR manager was lambasting him.

His performance is no where near acceptable

Why are we paying his salary?

He should be taken out and shot

I have to say I agreed with all of this, even the shooting comment was accurate, but it was his final comment that made me sit back and think:

If he carries on like this he will have to be put on a performance improvement programme

The ultimate sanction

The first thought that sprung to mind was:

That’s a little bit late, why don’t we put Frank on a plan now, what are we waiting for

Then I remembered a story I had heard about an Olympic swimmer.  Every morning for ten years she had dragged herself out of bed and headed to the pool with one thing on her mind, how she could improve her performance that day.  What could she do to kick faster, pull stronger, dive further.

Then it struck me

We shouldn’t go on a performance improvement programme just because we are naughty.

It shouldn’t be some sort of punishment.

If we want to improve our performance we should be on a performance improvement programme every day.

Shouldn’t we?

Performance Improvement Plans
Read another opinion

Image by ryancboren


  1. I have met Frank many times in the last 25 years and always found that early intervention and a frank 2-way communication about motives and motivations leads to one of the following;
    A) Rejunenation of the work ethic (just because someone has bothered to listen with intent!),
    B) Redirection of effort (just because someone has understood that the work no longer (never?) suited the person)
    C) Redeployment outside the company (just because we both came to realise that they just did not want to work here any more and it was time to move on).

    Always a good result without any angst, special measures, compensation, litigation or tears….. Simples!

  2. HEllo James

    Several thing come to mind:

    a) in organisations we assume that each employee we take on is perfect or should be perfect. When the employee does not turn out to be perfect then we get busy blaming and correcting the perfect employee we took on.

    b) what if we said when we took on this employee he fitted the bill. Now he no longer fits the bill. So what is it about the working environment and us that has taken him from perfect to imperfect? What do we need to change about ourselves, the work environment etc?


    • James Lawther says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Maz, it is very interesting that it is always the employee who is at fault, never the working environment.

  3. Hi James, nice piece about performance management. My experience has been that Performance management has been the last shake of the dice for the bad’un, a process always owned by HR. I always remember the messages given to new graduate managers at a corporate I use to work at:

    To be successful you must:
    • Manage your budget, i.e. never overspend and delivery whatever saving target you are given;
    • Manage your people, i.e. do 121s, appraisal reviews and follow HR’s performance management process if needed.

    There was never a suggestion to understand the system or to adopt an attitude that as manager one of your prime responsibilities was to help your staff find ways to make the business, or your part of it, work better.

    Keep up the blogs.

  4. Hi James,
    Great observation on how we manage our organisations and people, where most things are reactive. Perhaps we should take the athlete analogy further and put everyone on a ‘winning’ training plan with a goal, training schedule and metrics along the way. Or, is that too much work?