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Performance Management

Poor Performance Diagram

Poor Performance Diagram

In the broadest possible sense, poor performance covers a large number of widely ranging issues. In addition, the list of what constitutes poor performance will vary greatly between different types of organizations. This has the potential to cause problems for individuals (especially if the rules are not well communicated). As a result, the use of a detailed framework can help to clarify the issue by separating performance problems into four category types. These are portrayed in the performance diagram above.


These usually relate specifically to an individual (rather than to whole groups of people or to problems between different people). Personal behavior problems typically involve an individual failing to manage him or herself in an appropriate way when he or she may be reasonably expected to do so (without any  supervision or direction from others). The type of problems that can arise in this category will vary greatly in relative seriousness. They may range from poor grooming and appearance, excessive lateness or excessive sickness to such serious issues as the consumption of drugs or alcohol in the workplace.


These issues usually relate to conflicts or disputes between two or more individuals in the enterprise, that have gone beyond so-called ‘normal’ to ‘healthy’ disagreements. The less serious end of this scale is difficult to define as it will often be highly situationally dependent and may vary according to the culture or values of the enterprise. However, rude language, shouting and talking unkindly behind people’s backs may be the sort of problems encountered. At the serious end of the scale, the problems may be much clearer, involving sexual harassment, bullying and physical fighting. It should be noted, however, that ‘relating’ problems can often be hard to spot or may take time to surface. Good monitoring is therefore crucial.


Even though they are usually less visible than some of the more serious personal or relationship based problems, work competence generally covers the vast majority of poor performance issues. However, once again, what constitutes a lack of competence will vary greatly from one enterprise to another and action to do anything about it is equally variable. In general terms, perhaps at the less serious end of this scale are problems such as sloppily presented work, persistent poor quality of effort and missed deadlines. At the more serious end however, are levels of incompetence where a lack of focus, ability or effort has serious financial implications for people or other significant consequences for the enterprise.


These usually relate to clear breaches of written guidelines or regulations that individuals are reasonably expected to follow. At one end of this scale is what may be seen as minor contraventions of internal policy or procedure that a particular enterprise does not want to see repeated or widely copied by others. However, even procedural contraventions can have significant consequences when it comes to spending the organization’s money or harming people or assets etc. Most seriously in this category, individuals can act illegally by stealing, or causing malicious damage to equipment for example.  It could also be the case that an individual’s illegal actions outside their place of work (in their personal time) may result in disciplinary action being taken, including termination of employment. For example, a sales representative may have been successfully prosecuted for drunk driving, and being now unable to travel flexibly has his or her employment terminated.

These four categories are not intended to be rigid segregations, as it is clear that some performance problems may involve more than one category, depending upon the circumstances. For example, a fight between two intoxicated employees on work premises at a work party, causing damage to some office equipment and rendering both of them unable to come to work for several days is likely to fit into all four categories. However, this is quite an extreme case and for the most part these four categories are useful not only for distinguishing between different types of problems but perhaps more importantly to encourage managers to think about the different approaches that are likely to be the most successful in each case.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. mba_mbong@yahoo.comSeptember 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I find this blog very important.
    It has been of so much help to me as a researcher in Management and Performance

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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