One of the most challenging elements of running your own business or being a Leader is managing employees, particularly when their performance or conduct is not acceptable. Often, we avoid these difficult conversations because we don’t have time, don’t want to upset anyone, or assume the problem will fix itself. These difficult conversations feel like performance management which requires hard work and can be unpleasant.

Current neuroscience research shows that the way performance management has been done in the past no longer works. Leaders who focus on employees’ past performance for instance at annual review time often generate a negative environment. Many employees feel defensive when their performance or conduct is challenged. Sometimes we see their performance or conduct worsen after these conversations.

But what if we could address these difficult conversations and the employee walks away feeling motivated to change and keen to improve? What if employees feel more supported because their Leader had a difficult conversation with them? What if.. as the employee’s Leader you were given a valuable opportunity to share insights to reinforce the right behaviours and achieve greater outcomes?

Successful management of performance or behaviour issues lies in the leader’s ability to clearly define an individual’s roles & responsibilities and ensure employee’s performance and behaviour are measured against expectations. When there are issues with employees, it will often show up as either a performance or a behavioural issue.

Performance issues are about how an employee is meeting their targets or is working. For example, an employee who demonstrates the values of the organisation (ie. Open, accountable and transparent in their dealings but may struggle to meet targets and performance milestones).

Behavioural issues are how a person conducts themselves in the workplace. For example, a high performer can achieve great results but may demonstrate toxic behaviours such as not showing up to work on time or has a negative attitude.

Follow these easy steps to turn around an employee’s performance or behaviour concerns:

  • Don’t delay: Many leaders wait too long to raise performance concerns with an employee or put off delivering tough feedback. Opportunities for casual counselling sessions are missed. This can mean the employee often has a false impression of how well they are travelling as feedback about their poor performance comes as a shock. By having regular conversations you can give feedback promptly whilst using clear examples of the performance and behavioural issues.
  • Have tough conversations: Nobody likes being the bearer of bad news and often it is tempting to soften the blow when giving an employee feedback about their performance or behaviour concerns. Lack of frankness or honesty does both the individual and the organisation a disservice. If you want your employee to have a genuine opportunity to improve, they need to know where their performance is lacking (with specific examples), and what standard is required and there needs to be a two-way conversation about how they can improve. Knowing how to have these tough conversations is a skill that can be learned and improved, but it requires practice.
  • Provide feedback and create action items: Think about what the purpose of the conversation is, provide feedback and agree on action items with the employee.
  • Observe: Ensure you follow through with the process of observing work performance or behaviours.
  • Follow-up: Provide follow-up feedback to reinforce positive actions or alternative actions.
  • Always keep a document trail: This doesn’t have to be complicated.. keep some diary notes or send a quick follow-up email to the employee afterward to reiterate the contents of the discussion or the agreed actions
  • Make observing work performance and behaviour, and providing feedback about it a routine part of the regular employee/leader relationship.


What is employee feedback?

Employee feedback is any information exchanged with employees (formally or informally) regarding their performance, skills, or ability to work within a team. Both leaders and peers may deliver feedback, and when done tactfully, the process can create a stronger, more harmonious workplace.

There are two types of Feedback:

  1. Positive feedback reinforces behaviour that we want to see continue. While positive feedback intends to reinforce the behaviour that we want more of, the intent of developmental feedback is the opposite. Use developmental feedback to reduce the frequency of — or even eliminate — behaviour that you want less of. Use it to facilitate improvement, when someone’s behaviour is having a negative impact on the team or your stakeholders; and
  2. Developmental feedback is important because it helps break bad habits, provides the opportunity to discuss alternative actions to improve performance, and enables teams to work more effectively toward their goals.


Why should you give feedback?

As a leader, do you want to create a good team? Feedback provides a great opportunity for you to make an impact with your team. Feedback is that is in-the-moment, informal, and opportunity to frequently demonstrate to employees that you care and want to help them develop. Feedback provides for the ability to foster a forward-looking growth mindset in your team.


Feel reluctant about sharing feedback?

Many leaders have trouble with providing feedback and sometimes are reluctant to share feedback. However, whilst many leaders may feel uncomfortable providing feedback, interestingly research show that employees want to hear feedback (even if sometimes it is development feedback), particularly Gen Y or Millennials.


People often don’t want to share feedback for these reasons:

  1. Fear of embarrassment or discomfort.
  2. Fear of the other person’s reaction.
  3. A perceived inability to have a negative reaction.
  4. The person may not have any concrete evidence to back up what they are saying.


However, if you are not comfortable giving feedback, think about your job and your performance in your position. How do you know if you are doing a good job or not? Are you interested in knowing if there is anything else you could be doing to improve?

We all have a human need to be appreciated for our efforts, and so when others don’t notice your contributions, it makes you feel as though you don’t belong. You might also start to worry about your potential professional advancement. Self-doubt starts to creep in, and you think, ‘If no one notices what I’m doing, how am I going to get ahead?’

Feedback is an opportunity to reinforce the positive work that your employees are doing and an opportunity for employees to grow and learn to become a better version of themselves.


About Employment Innovations

Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.



The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.