Poor performance is catching

2008

Managers trying to pull up a poor performer need to be careful their own performance does not end up slipping, new research has suggested.

A study by consultancy firm Watson Wyatt has concluded that managers often under perform themselves when it comes to managing their poor performers.

Its 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards, a European-wide study involving more than 5,500 employees and 175 companies, found top performers were two thirds more likely to say their immediate supervisor was doing a good job of communicating organisational and performance management issues than a poor performer.

Just a third of poor performers were able to say their immediate manager was doing a good job of communicating expectations for organisational financial performance.

Manager also proved less adept when it came to establishing performance goals for poor performers that were linked to business objectives.

And it was the same story when it came to managers providing direct feedback on workers' individual performance.

Fewer than one in three agreed their immediate manager did a good job of linking organisational performance to rewards or of linking their individual performance to rewards.

There was always a natural temptation for managers to be more focused on the easier-to-manage top performers in their organisation, but it needed to be resisted, argued Watson Wyatt senior consultant Carole Hathaway.

"Managers find it easy to manage top-performing employees but are not so adept when it comes to improving poorer performers," she pointed out.

"Some of the greatest opportunities for improved organisational performance lie in helping managers raise the bar for moderate and poorer performers but it appears from our study that few employers are doing a good job of this," she added.

Managers needed more support in understanding how to communicate with all their staff, not just the more motivated and stronger performers, argued Hathaway.

"Employees perform better if they have a clear understanding of their organisation's goals and what they can personally do to contribute towards these," she said.

"So setting good objectives and getting performance management communication right, especially for the weaker members of a team, is of vital importance," she added.

A survey by UK-based management training body Roffey Park earlier this month also identified an issue with underperformance.

Its Management Agenda report found that one in five managers believed underperformance was not tackled at all within their organisation.

The relationship a manager had with his or her direct line manager was often a source of demotivation rather than motivation, it also concluded.