Do you have a team member who has poor work habits or is not working to the standard you need?

I am sure most managers would agree that they want a safe and happy workplace with high performing staff. Managing underperforming staff can be a difficult and stressful task, but what if it was possible to turn this poor performance into good.

Jane was out of her depth

Jane worked in the administration team in a large RTO. She excelled in her job and was promoted to a leadership position in the compliance team. Her eye for detail and in-depth knowledge of the organisation set her up well for potential success in this job. But things didn’t go smoothly. Despite her skills and experience Jane didn’t really know enough about compliance and she was struggling to learn how to do this new job.

Jane knew that she could probably get away with her lack of knowledge for a while, but it wouldn’t be long before her lack of experience and skill would begin to jeopardise the compliance position of the RTO.  Fortunately this RTO had a regular performance appraisal process in place and during a review discussion Jane’s boss recognised that the core of the problem could be resolved with some training and a little bit of time.

In this case, a regular performance appraisal process salvaged a situation that could have led to poor performance and a valuable staff member leaving the organisation.

Julian was always late









Julian worked in a small RTO and like most of the team was a jack of all trades. Most people in the team just got in and did whatever needed to be done. During a particularly busy time, Julian started to regularly come into work late and began to miss deadlines. Other members of the team began to pick up the extra work that Jamie wasn’t getting done. After a few weeks this started to impact on team relationships and morale.

If this situation was left to continue, I am sure you can predict what would have happened. Perhaps there would have been an argument in the office, or some of the productive team members may have started to look for a job somewhere else where the workload was more manageable.

Instead, the RTO manager spoke to Jamie informally and discovered that an elderly parent had had a fall and needed Julian’s help in the morning. Once this was discovered the team was more accommodating of the situation and Julian negotiated to do some work from home for a few weeks.

This story highlights the importance of dealing with situations as they arise. Once again the more serious impact of a long term performance problem was averted by dealing with the issue straight away.

Why should we manage underperformance?

It makes good business sense to manage issues as they arise.

Despite the time it takes and the stress it may cause, managing underperformance is critical to business success. Dealing with issues as they arise and implementing a formal and regular appraisal system will lead to many benefits.

4 benefits of dealing with underperformance

  1. It leads to happy and motivated staff who know the value of their contributions. A regular appraisal discussion will enable you to act on poor performance as it occurs and also will enable you to give feedback to all staff. This helps motivate people and maintains their performance.
  2. It minimises the impact on the team. Unaddressed performance issues impact on the whole team and on your customers. A regular appraisal process and the discipline of managing performance issues as they arise will minimise the negative impact of the underperformance, especially in a small organisation or a small team where the impact of one poor performer is felt widely.
  3. It stops the escalation into serious issues. The risk and impact of underperformance increases over time. The longer you leave these issues unresolved, the more complicated it becomes to solve them.
  4. If we dont, it undermines the credibility of the leader. Leaving performance issues unresolved can impact on the attitude that other staff have of the leader. Not addressing issues undermines a leader’s credibility and challenges staff respect and confidence in the leader.

If dealt with promptly, simply giving clear and supportive feedback on a regular basis may be all that is needed to lift underperformance to a satisfactory level.

But sometimes a more formal and systematic approach is required. The points below outline the key steps required to manage underperformance.

  1. Conduct a formal meeting to discuss the performance issue. During the meeting you should:
    • Explain the problem in specific terms, giving examples of actual incidents.
    • Give opportunity for employee to explain from their perspective
    • Clearly explain your expectations of the employee
    • Discuss and agree on an action plan to address the situation
    • Clearly explain the potential consequences if performance does not meet expectations
  2. Monitor performance and conduct follow up meetings to review progress
  3. Keep clear records of meetings
  4. If performance does not improve, issue warning letters clearly outlining consequences of failing to meet performance expectations
  5. If termination is required, prepare and issue termination letter.

Dealing with underperformance promptly is crucial. The longer left unchecked, the harder it is to find a positive solution.

Planning and Performance Appraisal guide

If you would like to read more about effectively managing performance and are looking for a helpful resource see our Planning and Performance Appraisal guide here. This guide will assist you to design and implement an effective performance appraisal system and formally manage underperformance. It’s just $22 and you can grab it here.

If you would like some customised support in managing performance issues in your RTO please contact us at

Thanks for joining us.








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