Bad Attitude? Performance or Misconduct?

bad attitude at workClients often come to us about an employee who has potential but who is, in fact, bone idle, or with an employee who is endlessly late, but it’s always someone else’s fault, or an employee who is endlessly negative about the organisation and its managers, but who can’t see that all is not as bleak as they seem to think it is. Our clients ask us whether we can help them discipline the employee on grounds of poor performance.

Sometimes at the point of them calling us, informal performance management (i.e. chats, emails, memos, meetings, texts, hints, public dressing downs, car park end of day goodbyes etc.) has taken place over months, or even years, before they decide it is time to get formal.

When we look through all the paperwork, the message is consistent – you are under performing. A tick in the box you might think – or is it?

No, it’s not a tick in the box. It’s frustrating that, almost always, whatever is not working with an employee is classed as under performance.

If they have a bad attitude that results in lateness, negativity, low productivity, blaming others etc. that really should be classed as misconduct, not performance. They are not struggling to perform, they are misbehaving. Let me explain: if your child at home doesn’t do their homework, is that because they are confused despite trying to understand the topic, missed the necessary lesson through illness, or because they struggle to write essays? Or, is it because they have a tendency towards laziness, want to play on the Xbox or prefer to go out with their mates rather than stay at home working?

If this happened in the workplace the first few examples should be classed as performance issues, whilst the other examples should be classed as misconduct. But, if managers need any more convincing that they should not be going down the performance route with attitude issues, here is a snippet taken from our Performance Management Toolkit (Bag of Learning)

Differentiating between performance and misconduct issues

It is important that you fully understand what you are dealing with before you take any formal action. If you mess this up, or change your mind part way through, this can have serious consequences, if subsequently you want to dismiss the employee.

To decide what you are dealing with:

• Performance – this is often outside the employee’s control e.g. insufficient knowledge, experience, or a role above their current potential
• Misconduct – this is usually within the employee’s control e.g. poor attitude, laziness, dishonesty, not listening to instructions, not following procedures

And if you come across issues that are the result of neither performance nor misconduct, then you may need to manage the employee on grounds of Capability. This will be the case for example where there are ill health issues, learning difficulties, disabilities etc.

Is it time to better educate managers about how to differentiate between genuine poor performance and acts of misconduct? And is it time to instil greater confidence in managers in how to discipline for poor attitude?

If you would like further training or support on this then Jaluch has four options for you:

  1. Read our eBook on Managing Performance – available from Amazon.
  2. Purchase one of our Bags of Learning on Managing Performance or Managing Discipline and Dismissals for materials you can use to train your managers.
  3. Ask us to deliver training for your managers in Managing Performance and Managing Discipline and Dismissals.
  4. Alternatively, the Jaluch advice centre can support your managers and HR staff with any performance or misconduct issues you may have (no contract required).

Contact us for more information!

I’d be interested to hear about some of your experiences. Comments welcome, please leave them in the box below.



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