Dealing with Poor Performance – the new starter

Consider the following story – it’s a simple version of events that occur all too often in organisations of all sizes and shapes.

Sam starts her new role in customer support – answering the phone to customers who have trouble with services they have purchased.  She gets some training in the service offers, and is told to ask her colleagues if she can’t answer some questions.

Sam struggles and is too embarrassed to ask for help.  She requests more training but is told she has done the courses available.

Her performance stats are not good, and her team’s feedback scores start to fall.  She feels under pressure and her colleagues can’t cope with her emotional responses to challenges.

She asks to meet her boss, but he is busy, and suggests she talks to her colleagues.  Things go from bad to worse, and eventually she goes on long term sick leave.  When she returns her boss summons her with an ultimatum about her performance: ‘either get up to speed or leave’.  Sam makes a formal complaint saying her boss has refused all her requests for additional help and is now forcing her to leave.  She says this is unfair dismissal.

Who is the poor performer here? 

Sam’s manager has not supported her, has ignored her requests for additional help, and blamed her for not meeting performance standards.  It is possible that Sam is in the wrong role for her skill set, however her manager has failed to address the performance problems from the start.

Getting new recruits off to a good start is fundamental to ensuring long term success.  Often the problem is that the manager assumes that the new recruit already has the knowledge and skills to do the role – that’s why they were recruited.  However, generalised skills are not the same as the specific knowledge and competence for a specific role.

Managing a probationary period so that it is clear to both the new recruit and the manager that the recruit will be able to deliver in practice is vital.  Expecting colleagues to manage a new recruit can be a recipe for failure.

Ensure your managers have clear processes and procedures for probationary periods, and understand the vital importance of checking in early and often with new recruits.


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