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Resource Center for Addressing and Resolving Poor Performance

Resource Center Overview

About This Resource Center

Most Federal employees work hard, and their performance is considered good or even exceptional. However, at times Federal supervisors are faced with employees whose performance is not acceptable. The purpose of this resource center is to help you address and resolve poor performance.

This guidance should be used in concert with the technical advice you receive from your agency’s human resources staff. You should also be aware that most agencies have specific procedures and requirements that must be followed, whether they are part of a negotiated bargaining agreement or other internal agency regulation.

Why Address Performance Problems?

Dealing with performance problems is a real challenge for any supervisor. Experienced supervisors often say it is one of the toughest parts of their jobs. Nevertheless, it is a key supervisory responsibility, and failure to address poor performance can have a greater impact than you may appreciate.

  • Failing to address poor performance sends a clear message to other employees that you have unique standards for poor performers and that they need not meet your performance expectations.
  • With staff cutbacks, it is critical that all employees produce, and ignoring poor performance by some staff can no longer be tolerated.
  • Poor performance usually only gets worse over time—rarely does it correct itself without action on the part of the supervisor.
  • Taking action against one employee does not lower morale among other employees. In fact, the opposite is true. Often taking action leads to a more productive work environment.
  • Constructive counseling given early and regularly not only often leads to performance improvement but also eliminates the need to consider more formal action that is even more unpleasant. Providing such counseling does not require special skills.
  • Most performance-based actions are not appealed. The majority of appeals are won before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

What Can I Do To Prevent Poor Performance?

A recurring theme in successful resolution of performance problems is that taking action early is always better than waiting. This statement is definitely true when considering ways to prevent performance problems. Early communication, early feedback (positive and negative), and if appropriate, early termination during a probationary or trial period are all good ways to prevent future performance problems. Investing time early is always time well spent. Review some tips for preventing performance problems.


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