While hope is generally a good thing in life, it can be problematic when managers use it as a performance management strategy. An all too common scenario is:

A manager hires someone who never should have been hired, or keeps someone around who should have been terminated long ago. The manager hopes the employee will get better but never clearly communicates expectations.

Usually, the manager wants to avoid conflict, or hopes the employee will improve, or hopes the employee will leave on his or her own, or hopes the employee switches departments. Inevitably, however, after months (or years) of failed expectations, the manager gets fed up and fires the employee. The result is a big problem for the employer if the employee brings a claim. It is hard to say the termination was performance-related when the employee was never told of the issues, and presumably the documentation is lacking or non-existent.

This scenario came to mind while I was preparing a performance management training program for a client. While performance management can’t be summed up in a single blog post, I’ve found the following principles to be key to a solid performance management program:

  1. Avoid the element of surprise
  2. Document, document, document
  3. Be thorough
  4. Give honest feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly)
  5. Avoid making promises you may not be able to keep
  6. Avoid biases and stereotypes
  7. Set goals
  8. Be honest, yet respectful, at all times

A successful performance management program can be one of an employer’s most valuable productivity tools.