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Performance or Misconduct?

These two things are commonly confuzzled.

It’s not surprising that people often get stuck trying to work out what’s a performance issue vs. misconduct.

Every situation is different and let’s face it, people are complex things that even the most distinguished psychologists struggle to understand.

As challenging as it can be though, leading your people becomes a bucket-load easier when you realise that it’s less about “managing” people and more about problem-solving and leading by example.

Let’s explore how we can break this down simply…

What is Performance?

What is Misconduct?

Are you still not quite sure what’s what for a specific situation?

If it were straightforward, you probably wouldn’t be here or asking the question in the first place. As we know, most situations we find ourselves in when it comes to people are almost never straightforward. There are often many things going on, probably all at the same time. Here are a few tips to help you break down a situation:

  1. Write out a timeline of events.

  2. Try to identify each individual issue by writing a list.

  3. Talk it through with a mentor or other experienced people leader.

  4. Sort the issues into categories of “misconduct” “performance” or “unsure”.

What’s most important is to deal with it sooner rather than later. Issues that are put in the “too hard basket” or “swept under the rug” have a nasty habit of festering and growing over time and then popping up later, much uglier than before.

Firstly, seek to understand the situation fully. Ask these key questions and you’ll likely end up on the right path.

What’s expected? What does ‘good’ look like? Common mistakes that lead to performance/misconduct issues are not clearly defining or not clearly communicating what’s actually expected. Sometimes just doing this will solve the issue.

Is there a written record of what’s expected? Things that are written down, are the things that stick. If it’s something that’s clearly communicated and it’s written down, then you’ve probably got stronger footing for addressing the issue more formally. If you don’t have anything in writing, it’s probably time to get out the pen (or keyboard). See this article on how to set SMARTER goals.

What’s the gap? How far away from meeting the expectation are they? Is it possible for them to meet expectations? Is it even possible for a human being to meet the set expectations? Figure out how to clearly outline what the reality vs. expectation shortfall is.

Why is there a gap? This is probably the hardest part. To get to the root of the issue, at some point, you’ll need to have a courageous conversation with your employee. You may need to invite them to a formal meeting and advise them of the right to representation depending on the seriousness of the situation.

A really common mistake at this point is to jump to conclusions and make assumptions. It’s really easy to do – especially when we are frustrated. Remember that if you’re frustrated, you’re emotions are potentially getting in the way of good judgement so there’s even more reason to slow down.

How can we move forward? Regardless of whether or not it’s misconduct or performance, you should still be asking how you avoid being back in this situation again. Explore/brainstorm/consult to identify what options you have available. A common error is to jump straight to “retraining” or “disciplining” someone. Will either of those things actually result in a better outcome? Sometimes yes, but maybe not. There might be a better alternative. Ask the person involved what they think the best solution is. You’ll be amazed as to what ideas they may come up with.

Make a plan and stick to it. Once you’ve identified all your options, it’s time to decide what action(s) you are going to take, who’s going to do it, and when it needs to be done. Again, what’s written down sticks so make an effort to write it down. It’ll also ensure that there’s no confusion about what was agreed.

Check-in. This is arguably the most important part but is often overlooked. If you really want to see an improvement, you need to follow up. That doesn’t mean you need to have formal reviews every week. Simple quick check-ins on a regular basis and a note to record what was discussed will suffice. It shows you are invested and committed to the plan and your people.

People related issues can be challenging but it doesn’t need to be hard work.

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