Managing performance concerns

From time to time, you may be faced with the need to start managing performance concerns within your team. Perhaps you’ve got a new starter who hasn’t performed as expected? Or maybe you’ve got a team member who used to perform well but now is making mistakes. Or possibly, you’ve inherited someone who has never had their poor performance tackled before. What should you do? Start addressing it immediately! 

Managing performance concerns informally

The usual starting point when managing performance concerns is to address it informally. Before you arrange a meeting, gather specific examples of where performance has been below the standard expected. If you have received feedback from team members, check that they are happy for you to use it. The more specific you can be, the more likely it will be received and understood. 

Once you have gathered your evidence, book a confidential meeting space to have a meeting. If you have regular catch ups, use one of those meetings to explore the concerns. Just don’t leave the meeting too long as its much less effective if you’re trying to address a concern that happened months ago! The structure of the meeting should go as follows:

  • Outline the concerns.
  • Ask the employee for their views.
  • Agree an action plan.
  • Agree to meet in a week or two to review progress.

Managing performance concerns when performance has dipped

If an employee was previously a good performer but performance has dipped, it’s important to explore the reasons why this has happened. It could be that the employee has personal issues that you are unaware of. Alternatively they may have simply reached the end of their time in their current role but don’t know what to do next. If an employee says they have personal issues or health concerns, then be supportive. Depending on what they say, you may need to take some action. Call us for advice.

So what do you do if the employee refuses to engage? If they can’t provide a reason or won’t admit to their being a reason why their performance is a concern then you should tackle the underperformance in isolation.

Managing performance concerns

Managing performance concerns that have lasted a long time

Possibly the trickiest area of managing performance concerns is where the employee has been underperforming for some time but hasn’t been aware of it. Perhaps a previous manager ducked the issue. At the risk of being accused of bullying (which often happens in these cases), you need to tackle the issue for everyone’s sake. Remember poor performance doesn’t just affect the employee, it impacts the whole team. If other team members have to carry additional workload because one person isn’t performing, they risk become disillusioned or stressed.

In this case, it’s important to rely on specific examples of where performance has been unsatisfactory. Just because this has been tolerated in the past, it doesn’t follow that you have to put up with it forever. The mechanism for addressing the concerns is the same as the method listed above but may be more tricky.


Managing performance concerns - the formal process

If the informal process failed to address the performance concern, you will have to invoke the formal process. This involves the development of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). The PIP objectives should be determined by the manager but how those objectives are delivered and any support required should be agreed in consultation with the employee. The PIP will last between 1 and 3 months depending on the nature of the objectives and how easy it will be for the employee to demonstrate an improvement. Tasks that are repeatable each week will require a shorter time frame for improvement than one that is repeated less often.

Once the PIP is completed, regular review meetings should be scheduled during the lifespan of the PIP. Again, depending on how long the PIP is in place for, these could be weekly or fortnightly but should be agreed in advance.

Finally at the end of the PIP, a formal meeting is convened to review progress. There should be no surprises here if you have had regular reviews. As one of the potential outcomes is a warning, the employee should be given a minimum of 48 hours notice in writing. They should also be given the opportunity to bring a representative with them.


Managing performance concerns

Managing performance concerns - the formal meeting

At the formal meeting, the manager should review the PIP line by line. It’s good practice to allow the employee to present evidence before you speak. At the end of the meeting, adjourn and consider what you’ve heard. Then reconvene and give one of the 3 following outcomes:

  • The PIP has been successfully completed. In this case, no warning is placed on file and normal Performance reviews will reconvene. 
  • The PIP has been partially completed. In this case you may decide to extend the PIP for a further 1 – 3 months. Only one extension should be allowed per PIP.
  • The PIP has not been successfully completed and a formal warning is issued. In this case the employee has the right to appeal. Once the appeal window is completed, the manager and employee should meet to arrange a further PIP. The process is then repeated.

Dismissing for performance capability

After the 3rd PIP, the manager will have the decision of whether to maintain employment or not. Unless your contract of employment allows for demotion as action short of dismissal, this would be the normal course of action for a 3rd failed PIP. Dismissal would be with notice.

Frequently Asked Questions


Most frequent questions and answers

Employees who have less than 2 years service cannot bring an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. This does not mean that they necessarily have no legal recourse. Discrimination and Protected Disclosure (Whistleblowing) claims are still admissable. You are therefore advised to seek professional help before dismissing someone, even if it seems a straightforward case.

Our general principle at Cornerstone Resources is that everyone should be given a second chance so we would advise that a process is followed.

The employee has a right to bring a representative at the final review meeting. This is where a warning could potentially be given and is therefore classed as a formal meeting. The PIP setting session and any mid-PIP reviews are not formal meetings and therefore there is no requirement.

This depends on the role. When managing performance concerns, you should allow time to demonstrate improvement. If the task is weekly, then one month should be adequate to demonstrate improvement. If it is monthly, the PIP may need to last 3 months.

If the role is project based, break the projects down into key steps and measure accordingly.

No the same manager should arrange all PIP’s to ensure consistency. The appeal stage should be dealt with by a different manager where possible.

Yes for the formal meetings, 48 hours written notice should ideally be provided. For all other meetings, no.

Managing performance concerns letters

Performance improvement plan (PIP) – click here

Invite to formal performance meeting – click here

Formal warning letter – click here

Dismissal letter – click here

Invite to appeal letter – click here

Outcome of appeal letter – click here