Performance Management or Bullying?

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

Performance management is a necessary process in the work place. Most employees will have an occasion during their career where their performance or behaviour in the workplace will need refocusing to align with expectations.

An effective manager should be engaging in regular discussions with their staff from week to week where there is a focus on achievements, challenges and providing feedback. If done well these informal conversations reduce the need for a formal structured performance management process when there is an identified gap in performance or behaviour, the employee will be open to feedback and see the identified gap as an opportunity to re-align with expectations without being seen as personal criticism.

When managers are not engaging in regular informal feedback it is not uncommon for a workplace relationship to become strained as a result of a manager implementing a performance management process to address poor performance or unsatisfactory behaviour. This is simply because regular communication is not a priority for the manager and when time is allocated as a priority to formally discuss an issue it is viewed with contempt. From the employees perspective communication has only become a focus because something is wrong and there has been a lack of praise or reinforcement in the past of positive performance.

Unfortunately in these situations the employee will be immediately defensive to any feedback provided and this can escalate to a situation where the manager can be accused of bullying the employee. Often this is only the employees perception, as previously they have received little attention from their manager and  then suddenly they have become a repeat focus, having to be involved in discussions and meetings that are highlighting issues in performance.

As long as managers are setting reasonable objectives in relation to the improvements to be achieved and setting realistic timeframes, while providing the necessary resources then regardless of their management style they are well within their rights to manage performance in this manner.

Performance management can be extremely effective at achieving increases in performance and it doesn’t need to have a negative formal focus to achieve results. Get the approach wrong and an employee’s automatic defence mechanisms will add another challenge to overcome before improvements can be achieved.