You can’t allow underperformance to go unchecked, even if you fear reprisal. Here’s how to have the conversation.

Joe is not hitting his KPIs and is exhibiting poor work performance. The issue needs to be addressed but he’s claiming that his manager is harassing him.
It’s a tricky situation but you shouldn’t defer action if poor performance keeps occurring.
If left unchecked…
  • You may need to explore options for termination, which can leave you open to an unfair dismissal case if done incorrectly.
  • You could alienate other employees: according to the Fair Work Ombudsman, high-performing employees can lose motivation if they have to bear the burden of poor performing colleagues. Presenteeism, where employees are at work but performing below par, costs Australian businesses about $34 billion in loss of productivity.
  • Your customers could be impacted: weak performers are in a position to damage relationships and lose key customer accounts. Underperforming employees may be lacking guidance and communication from management. As a result they may not be equipped to deliver high quality customer service, or they may have lost the motivation to do so leading to costly mistakes.
So, what should you do?
Step 1: set up a formal discussion
It’s time for a more formal meeting to address Joe’s failure in reaching his  KPIs.
  • Provide hard evidence of Joe failing to reach his KPIs.
  • Continue to use a ‘culture of care’ approach that offers Joe the
  • opportunity to improve.
  • Offer him the option of bringing along a support person.
Step 2: have the discussion and outline specific KPIs that aren’t being met
For example, outline whether your employee is not meeting sales targets, or is not delivering reports on time.
You might open the conversation by saying: “Joe, I have noted that you haven’t met your KPIs for two of past four months. Only 30 sales have been made per month and you are targeted with 100 per month. We need to see results improve. How can I help you in the role?  Do you require training or particular tools?”
This line of conversation encourages his involvement and ownership of the outcome. Note that your concern is only valid if you made Joe aware of these KPIs from the start.
Step 3: reinforce the conversation with clear outcomes and requirements
Articulate what is expected in quantifiable terms.
“Each day you need to speak to 50 people on the phone. I will organise for Jerry to sit with you and help coach you to get through more calls a day.
Based on your performance this equates to at least five sales per day. This means you will average 25 sales a week. Your resulting target is 100 sales a month.”
Step 4: set up a review one month from the meeting
Arrange to meet every month to review progress against KPIs. Set up a meeting, and make sure it is in your calendar one month from this meeting to have a review with Joe to see if he made the 50 calls a day for his to meet his 100 sales a month KPIs. Don’t forget to provide Joe with the opportunity to bring a third party or support person.
Step 5: issue a first formal written warning
If Joe has not met his KPIs within this month (which you will have addressed in your meeting) it may be time to issue a first formal written warning after the meeting – preferably the same day. This can be an email, but a letter tendered by you (or Human Resources if you have a department) reinforces the formality.
Your letter should contain:
  • details of the performance or conduct issue of concern
  • what has been discussed about the issue
  • what the employer will do to assist
  • an action plan of what steps the employee needs to take
  • a reasonable timeframe in which the changes or improvements need to occur.
If there’s still no change in Joe’s performance at the end of that period, and you need to move into the next phase of performance management, be sure to download the How do I talk to an employee about their poor performance? e-book
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, high-performing employees can lose motivation if they have to bear the burden of poor performing colleagues. Presenteeism costs Australian businesses about $34 billion in loss of productivity.