Managing practice

Managing poor performance - Using HRD and performance appraisal frameworks

Employers should have policies and written procedures for dealing with aspects of poor performance. These are rarely held together in one concise document: you may find all of the following in your agency:

Between them, these will set out how the agency distinguishes between various levels of performance, ranging from the good, through the improvable to the unacceptable. Familiarity with the range of options will help you to decide which, if any, of these responses is the appropriate one in the circumstances.


  • Do you know what policy and procedures exists in your agency?
  • Do you have copies of these procedures?
  • Are you clear about why, when and how to activate them?

All of these are the Department's way of handling poor performance, which, as a first-line manager, is your responsibility to ensure.

Who can help and advise you?

For example: personnel/HRD colleagues, your own manager, and fellow first line managers are all available to advise you, even at a very early stage of concern. Issues of poor performance and behaviour are particularly difficult to think about on your own and in isolation, so always consult.

What kind of behaviour are you concerned about and what approach should you take?


The following questions will help you to decide what to do next. It can be very helpful to discuss the problem with a colleague who can give a slightly distanced response to your concerns. Ideally this will be your own line manager, and a peer support group can be very helpful in keeping your sense of perspective. You need to feel supported and justified both when deciding whether behaviour is unacceptable and when deciding how to manage it.

Is your concern about professional behaviour i.e. about how the worker undertakes the tasks and activities particular to their post:

For example you may be concerned about:

  • the adequacy of assessments undertaken by a social worker
  • the dependability of the file storage system undertaken by an administrator

Is your concern about 'employee' behaviour i.e. about how the worker fulfils the general requirements of employment: For example you may be concerned about an individual's:

  • lateness
  • discourtesy to colleagues

What level of concern does the behaviour cause you and / or others? For example:

  • have you received complaints, formal or informal
  • is it persistent
  • have you spoken to the individual but noted no change is the behaviour specifically covered by agency procedures as requiring formal action
  • do you think you are dealing with dangerous or unsafe practice

Your answers to these questions will help you to decide whether your next action is informal or formal.

These are the words used by many agency procedures and, in this context, informal means action that does not invoke a procedure. It does not imply unclear, inconsistent or ambiguous management.

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