Performance Management vs Performance Punishment

A primary leadership responsibility is to plan and support the work of others to achieve the results that they have been asked to achieve. This involves informing staff about work responsibilities, setting and interpreting work performance standards and giving appropriate feedback.

One of the biggest causes of workplace unrest and low job satisfaction is poor “performance management”, especially with staff who are under- performing to the required standards.

Research shows that poor performance management is one of the main contributing factors to staff absenteeism and turnover.

A leader’s inability to provide timely and appropriate performance feedback often results in the staff member becoming distressed; resulting behavioural changes become apparent, affecting the staff member’s performance.

Managing performance involves managing the effective work performance of staff as well as managing those challenging behaviours that affect individuals, teams and the overall performance of task achievement in the workplace.

The introduction of performance appraisals to organisations some years ago appeared to be the answer to addressing and meeting benchmarks for continuous improvement!

Performance appraisals help to identify skill gaps and training needs; provide areas for praise, promotion and in some instances, a pay increase. However they are often huge ‘time wasters’ and cause anxiety for both the leader and staff member.

Poor performance managers ‘performance punish’ their staff and create situations such as overlooking achievements; focus on what staff are doing wrong; take credit for another’s work and instil ‘fear’ in staff members. At times it can be simply the ‘language of the message’ that a leader uses, rather than the message content that causes a staff member to act out poorly.

To performance manage effectively a leader needs to be in tune with the team, its members and their tasks and roles. An effective leader has a good understanding of him/her as well as others, with an awareness of his/her shortcomings and strengths.

Most employees want to do a good job; however when they don’t know what is expected of them they can’t perform at a satisfactory level. Therefore an agreement between a leader and each of staff member on what is to be done ; what results are to be achieved; and the priorities on the use of time is essential to successfully promote performance.

Performance management is an ongoing, continuous process where praise for work well done is given consistently, as well as feedback on work performed below standard. A leader who has the skills required to consistently promote good / great performance is gifted in the understanding of human behaviour.

However, a leader who practices performance punishment can learn new skills to make the necessary changes to their leadership style and in turn reap the rewards of a high performing team.

It is true that we operate at the ‘speed of life’ today; we are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines, produce more in less time and with fewer staff. A leader can easily feel pressured rather than well paced. A skilled leader with excellent performance management skills is aware of the talents, strengths and weaknesses of their staff and is able to allocate tasks and activities accordingly. A smoothly running team is a well performance managed team.

Performance management includes ongoing activities to ensure that goals are consistently being met in an effective and efficient manner. It focuses on the performance of the organisation, the department, and the processes to build a product or service, how teams function or individuals operate.

Performance management focuses on the tasks rather than the behaviour. Although behaviour impacts upon tasks, the focus is the task, the impact upon the team or the overall affect of goal objectives.

Remembering that Leaders lead people, Managers manage processes.

The easiest way to bring about change in behaviour is to focus on the positive rather than trying to change a negative. Provide employees with opportunities to receive and give feedback regarding their performance in a positive safe environment and support those behaviours you do want. This leads to less error and waste, increased productivity as well as enhanced employee motivation, commitment and a sense of ownership.

Article by Jan Sky

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