Archive for Performance Management

Side stepping the toxic workplace! Fostering individuals to work in teams

Business man and woman fighting over briefcaseLooking around my office I realise that people are the most expensive item on my profit and loss. And they are also where I experience the most issue within my business. Toxic work environments reduce productivity, create stress and can drive good performers to leave.

For those of you old enough to remember there was a great episode of Yes, Minister where the Minister and Bernard discuss a new hospital completed 15 months previously.  No medical staff had been employed nor had any patients yet been admitted. The 340 odd administrative staff argued that doctors and patients would only wreck a smoothly functioning hospital! People are a problem it seems.

People matter, and people have personalities.

The risk of a toxic workplace

The management of people and how they perform in their roles is a major key to our business success – Duh! No news to me as a business owner.

It has been my observation over many years of working both in my own businesses and with clients that all workplaces have the capacity to become toxic and dysfunctional.  Employees in these workplaces start to define relationships in the workplace not based on the organisational structure but by co-workers they favour and those they do not like or trust. In time your team becomes distracted by gossip, dramas and animosity and inevitably become less productive.

As a manager my answer to this risk is to focus on more closely on ways I can assisting my people to understand that they are part of a business organisational system in which relationships are dominated by work related activities and goals. When they arrive through the door each day, they will be working with other people. People whom they may like or they may actively dislike at times. People who will approach their work in different ways. People who will have different priorities to theirs.

Focus on work related performance

Experienced managers learn that honest and open feedback is your only avenue if the work environment is to function effectively.  Tiptoeing constantly around the personalities and personal issues of various individuals creates a stifling atmosphere.  Change becomes tediously slow and difficult or worse still, cannot be implemented at all.


We set out to create a system, or workplace in our office that allows open, honest and timely feedback on work related  and technical aspects of performance, focusing on those issues that influence work results.


Our solution has been to embed a management system within the business that removes some of the personality issues from the system to allow the processes of the business to flow and to ensure that team members are very clear on their roles within the business. If people are aware of their role within the general plan then they can co-operate to work to that plan together.


People need to understand clearly what they must do to be a successful team member. Focusing on what they need to do to contribute to the goals and outcomes of the business helps to remove the personal angst that can develop.


And encouraging professional behaviour between team members sets the standard for the kind of work ethic we want in our office.

Communicate constantly and in many ways

Let’s be honest – no one really sets out, or wants, to be merely average in their role.  Everyone wants to achieve and meet their goals, but if those goals aren’t set out and clear, then they fall to a level of mediocre – to the lowest common denominator.

What does this entail?

  • Job descriptions
    What tasks I am expected to perform?  What are the outcomes I need to produce? What are my responsibilities?
  • People development plans
    What plans are in place to help me improve and develop my career
  • Key matrix as to the skills required for them to perform their role
    What skills am I expected to have? What do I need to get training in?
  • Open feedback which is timely and constructive
    Let me know at the time the incident occurred what were the issues and why, and what I can do to change next time
  • Feedback that is interactive, communicative and conducive to meeting their own and the corporate goals
    Who can I discuss this with to give my feedback, resolve my problems and ask for guidance and mentoring? Will my supervisor communicate with me regularly in a constructive way so that we can all achieve our goals

Creating a Performance Management system

We are currently rolling out a performance management system internally that addresses all these areas.   It will focus on work related performance, skills and activities  and on regular communication which is professional and directed to work performance. Shortly it will be released to a number of clients.

If people are one of your biggest costs, or if the management of your people has ever been an issue then this system is something you should consider. Ring me personally to discuss your situation.


Habits vs the Habit of Thinking

Today I have been thinking.

Interestingly, I have been thinking about how little time many people actually and actively engage in thinking. Now I have a few comments to make about this because there are some serious consequences for a business.

But first I want you to sit back and reflect on how many tasks you or others around you do automatically.

  1. There are the simple tasks where we do then everyday such as eating, drinking, cleaning our teeth, brushing our hair, going to the toilet, walking and many other such examples.  Things that have become habit and occur without the need to think or process anything.
  2. There a more complicated tasks, such as driving a car, which can still be automatic. Many parts of that skill are learnt at a young age and then become automatic – a process if you like.  Of course people might perform some of these actions to different levels of skill and they may feel capable of undertaking other tasks simultaneously with more or less degrees of success. Hence the reason they have banned the use of mobile phones when driving.

Let’s take an obvious but important conclusion from all this. Once something becomes routine – no matter if it is carried out with perfect form, or is a badly performed habit- we no longer think about how we perform that action.

With that thought in mind let’s get a little bit more complicated and start to think about how that same concept applies to the work environment.

Consider how many daily work tasks are carried out without the application of any thought to the process because what the person is doing has become a routine.  They tick the box without thinking.  They perform the role without understanding or thinking of the consequences to the client.

Unthinking routines can impact negatively in the business

  1. People do not change, grow or develop.  They cease to contribute to the growth to the business.  In some cases they begin to detract from the business or prevent it from moving forward.
  2. They often begin to make mistakes. They tick the box, or perform the action, or hear what they ‘think’ the client or customer said simply because they have heard or done it many times before.
    Case in point, how many emails have you received where the person has half-answered your question, or answered what they think you asked, rather than what you did ask?
  3. Depending on their role they may also influence the others. People may follow their lead because it is the easier route.
  4. When questioned or asked to think more deeply they have lost the ability to analyse.  It can take a lot of effort to re-ignite or teach the skill.

 Assessing whether non-thinkers have a role in your business

What do you do about the non-thinkers?

Well principally that depends on the workplace and needs.

  1. Can you ensure they are in a role that requires limited thinking but generates a return on the funds invested in their salary?
  2. Can you ensure they think to the level of the system in place – and once again ensure that their salary is in line with their efforts and abilities?
  3. Have you got enough thinkers in the business to keep it growing?
  4. Does having some non-thinkers hamper the growth of the business and its future and/or limit the development of others?
  5. Do they need to be removed from the system?

At the end of the day – re-examine your business value and proposition. Does their role fit? Are they happy that it (and their salary) won’t evolve further?  Are you happy with this?

If not change it – but do it properly.

Remember Business Success doesn’t just happen.