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James van den Berg - Dealing With Poor Performance And Misconduct

Employers often confuse poor performance and misconduct. All too often employers find that what they think is the right thing to do, does not address these two issues and in fact causes additional problems not only on the shop floor, but also may result in the involvement of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). How many employers have felt that they are powerless to deal with such issues and that they are punished for trying to do the right thing?

To deal with poor performance and misconduct, it is necessary to first understand what are these behaviours and what are their differences. From there one can determine the best way to deal with the specific issue and do what must be done to improve performance or eliminate unacceptable employee conduct without any dire consequences at the CCMA or Labour Court.

Poor performance

Poor performance is primarily concerned whether the job, for which the employee is employed and paid to do, is done as required. It is not about the behaviour of the person outside of performing the job.

To be able to establish if an issue is one of poor performance and to address it as such it is necessary to measure indicators against acceptable standards. The main indicators to consider are:
Factors that may impact on the indicators are:
Adherence to procedures
Employee efforts (or lack thereof)
General competence
A rational employer's response to poor performance is to first establish if there are reasons outside the control of an employee for the poor performance, for example, inadequate resources, equipment or material, to perform a task. If the resources are not a problem, the employee should be counselled and be provided with an opportunity for improvement. In some instances, the employer may have to provide the training and guidance that had not been provided in the first place.

Thereafter, the employer can resort to disciplinary action to improve performance or remove an employee if the performance does not improve adequately.


Misconduct is all about the behaviour or conduct of an employee on the job in relation to company rules, policies and procedures. This conduct may involve superiors, peers, subordinates, customers, suppliers, regulations, legal requirements, etc. Theft, assault or fraud are examples of extreme misconduct.

An employee may not perform his or her job, although capable of doing so, as a result of unacceptable attitude, behaviour or conduct. Insolence, insubordination and gross negligence should be treated as misconduct rather than poor performance.

A rational employer will mostly deal with misconduct through discipline. Counselling and formal discipline have their place in ensuring that employees adhere to reasonable standards of efficiency and conduct, and that those who can't or don't want to do so, are dealt with appropriately.

With the necessary know how it is possible to deal with poor performance and misconduct effectively. But how to apply discipline without negative consequences at the CCMA? Questions like these are discussed and addressed by the training Bafundise Skills offers.

For more information on upcoming courses please contact:
082 493 4499

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