When an employee is accused of not meeting their employer’s expectations, it often results in a lot of stress and anxiety for the employee.  It’s no surprise then that employees frequently seek advice from us about their rights and options when this occurs.  It can be very difficult to know what to do, and having good support may take some of the pressure off.

The first step an employee needs to take is to check their Employment Agreement and workplace policies to see how allegations of poor performance should be dealt with.  Some workplaces have a set process to deal with performance issues and these must be followed. 

If your workplace does not have any policies, it might be useful to talk to your employer about exactly what their expectations are, and how you are falling short of their expectations. 

You also need to identify what it is that you need to do to come up to the expected standard, and enquire about what support the employer is willing to provide.

In most instances employers would prefer to support the employee to improve, rather than to replace the employee.  It can be more costly for employers to recruit a new person, and expend time and resources on training them in the role, rather than bringing an existing employee up to their expectations.  Employees should therefore be encouraged to have open discussions with their employers about any performance issues, so they can demonstrate that they are willing to positively move towards improvement.

In order to avoid a situation getting to the point where the parties feel that they want to end their employment relationship parties must engage with each other early on.  This will allow open and productive communication while the parties are still on good terms. 

If the issues remain unresolved, then an employer might decide to move to a formal process, often referred to as a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).  If the employee’s performance does not come up to scratch by an expected time, the employer might consider taking disciplinary action (for instance, formal warnings, demotion or even dismissal).

Sometimes employees feel bullied or harassed during this process, especially if handled poorly.  A poorly handled allegation around the employee’s performance may in turn lead to a personal grievance.   Employers must ensure the process is fair, and their expectations are reasonable.

Jaenine Badenhorst
Employment Lawyer
Wellington