Underperformance, the yardstick!




I had previously considered underperformance as an unacceptable work output that triggers demands for termination or down grading of the affected staff member‘s employment contract where the work output does not meet the required expectations for the position.


It is not uncommon for people to quickly categorise a chain of actions or inactions as a sign of underperformance in the work place.


But, we may want to consider the following;

· Who qualifies the action or inaction?

· What is the yardstick?


Who qualifies the action or inaction?

Usually, colleagues, bosses and ultimately management team consider some staff to be underperforming because they believe they are not meeting set expectations. Such expectations may not have been set at all, or clearly communicated or may unjustly be heaped on a staff who is not well positioned to achieve such targets. Often considered are the final outcomes and not the chain of actions or inactions that led to the staff’s underperformance. It is sometimes not surprising to find that same staff exceling in another department or another assignment.


What is the yardstick used to qualify underperformance?

Some of the yardsticks include; Ability to meet the job description stated in the employment contract, how assignments given by Supervisors are completed, volume of work completed and speed at which they are completed.


Can wrong yardsticks be used to measure performance?

It is interesting to note that not all completed jobs are signs of competence because a task can be completed but the right process is not ensured e.g. procurement and logistics tasks. That the task was completed to ensure speed and not the right process is often the outcome when working to simply satisfy requesters.


Some job descriptions are not explicit and/or well delineated and often lead to confusion as you may find two staffers (sometimes not in same unit or department) competing to carry out same task. The ‘stronger’ competitor is seen as being able to perform and complete more tasks while the other is made redundant.


That there is a Supervisor to check mate a team may not be sufficient to determine performance level of a team member. A Supervisor may lack leadership skills and be more of a bully or a silent leader who waits until matters get out of hand before trying to provide guidance which s/he may not really do well at. In this circumstance, the supervisees struggle to meet requirements. This may lead to many colleagues seeing such a staff as not meeting requirements due to delays in completing tasks.


That the staffer is an old hand in the organization may not be sufficient to determine performance. Some staffers struggle to attain positions they know they are not qualified for and fail to gain the required understanding or training to enable them meet the job requirements. While some in this category end up building their capacity by learning on the job, others are simply lazy and rely on the fact that nothing will happen if they do not meet up to expectations because of the position of the individual through whom they got the job. Performance of staffers in this category can be pre-ascertained therefore a future decision or conclusion of underperformance is not justifiable because it should have been checkmated from the onset.


Again, like the preceding point, that a staffer has done well in one unit may not qualify them to occupy a more demanding position. Some staffers find positions imposed on them due to a vacant position that the organization does not want to spend extra costs filling. The staff simply accepts the position out of necessity. Such staffers struggle to meet the new job expectations which they do not understand (in the first instance); as it is all new to them. Very few organizations train and prepare the staff so repositioned. Some put their staff out there thinking ‘they should know what to do’.


And what if they don’t?


Will they be fired?


More in the next write up!



Picture sourced from the internet is used for illustrative purpose only!

Above article does not represent the view of INGOsphere9ja on the topic of discuss.

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