Managing poor performance in medical practices
Performance management is one of the more challenging aspects of the medical practice environment. Rewarding good performance should always be a priority and not forgotten. The focus of this factsheet however, is on the management of poorly performing staff.
You should manage poor performance as soon as possible. If issues are left unchecked they can become increasingly difficult to address. The performance management process should be supported by specific examples and evidence of the issue. You should have a policy in place to manage all issues to ensure consistency and fairness. Here is a suggested process:
Performance management process
Managing performance issues informally is preferable. This
means that you should speak with an employee as soon as
possible after you become aware of an issue, explain your
performance concerns and your expectations for future
performance. You should make a written note of your
File note template
|Date and time of discussion
|Who was present at the discussion?
|What was the issue?
|What is expected of the staff member?
|How did the staff member respond?
|What actions were decided upon following the discussion?
If informal performance management has not worked, you
should arrange a formal performance management meeting
with the employee. The meeting should occur in a private
location where the meeting will not be interrupted. It can be
useful to have a ‘note taker’ in the meeting and to offer for the
employee to bring a support person.
During the meeting, you should:
- let the employee know your performance
concerns – be as specific as possible and
provide actual examples of your concerns
- tell the employee what you expect of them – be
reasonable and be as specific as possible
- give the employee a timeframe in which to improve
- ask the employee if they have anything to say
about the concerns you have raised and properly
consider anything that they say (for example,
the employee may say they have not had
appropriate training or that they are experiencing
some personal difficulties or a health issue)
- let the employee know the consequences if their
performance does not improve (for example, they
may receive a written warning or may be dismissed)
- give the employee a written warning if
appropriate (see attached example); and
- confirm the content of your discussion in writing, in
either a performance improvement plan or by letter.
It may be helpful to have prepared a draft performance
improvement plan setting out your concerns and expectations
for discussion during the meeting. This will help you to structure
your thoughts about the issues and your expectations, and can
make the meeting less confrontational. You can refine this after
the meeting, if that is required.
Give the employee a genuine opportunity to improve their
performance. This may include providing additional training
or support to enable them to perform in accordance with your
Continue to manage performance issues informally as they arise.
Don’t just wait for the next meeting.
Arrange a further meeting if there is no improvement in their
performance (following the outline above). Give the employee
a further opportunity to improve. You may need to repeat this
step a number of times depending on the performance issue
and the content of the warning letter. You may also need to
issue further warnings.
Termination of employment
When you reach the point that you consider it appropriate to
terminate the employee’s employment:
- seek advice first
- ensure you have a valid reason for the termination
related to the employee’s capacity or conduct
- tell the employee the reason you intend to dismiss them
- give the employee an opportunity to respond to
your intention to dismiss them and properly consider
- ensure the employee is offered a support person in any
meetings about their dismissal and allow such a support
person if requested by the employee
- confirm the dismissal in writing.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has some great information and
templates about performance management. For example:
- Managing underperformance – best practice guide
- Template performance improvement plan
There is a range of claims that an employee may make if their
employment is terminated. The most likely claim is an unfair
dismissal claim. Other claims include discrimination, bullying and
harassment and adverse action.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), different rules apply
depending on whether the employer employs more or less
than 15 employees.
If your practice employs less than 15 employees:
- an employee cannot make an unfair dismissal claim during
the first 12 months of their employment; and
- in dismissing an employee, the practice is required to
comply with the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code
Conduct issues include serious breaches such as theft, assault,
sexual harassment or bullying. Conduct issues are generally
dealt with in a different way to general performance issues.
These generally require a formal investigation and disciplinary
process. This process should be outlined in the practice’s policy