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Bad Behavior or Poor Performance? How to Tell the Difference

by John Stebbins on Feb 12, 2019 3:18:20 PM

Effectively managing negative employee behavior is essential to a healthy and productive workplace. But sometimes it can be challenging to determine whether an employee’s actions constitute misconduct that requires discipline or are simply performance-related. And the difference is important because it impacts the plan HR puts in place for improvement.

Here are some ways to tell the difference between behavioral and performance issues so you can properly address them for an optimal workplace environment.


Misconduct generally involves intentional or negligent action that violates workplace rules and is distinct from the employee’s actual job performance. Examples of misconduct common in a business setting include:

  • Excessive tardiness
  • Dishonesty
  • Theft
  • Violence
  • Offensive behavior
  • Damage to property

Employee misconduct warrants discipline or the company risks affecting morale, engagement and productivity. Depending on the behavior, businesses may take one or more steps, including verbal and written warnings, suspension, and termination. 

Poor Performance

When an employee does their job badly according to acceptable standards, it constitutes poor performance. Examples of substandard work include:

  • The inability to effectively communicate
  • Lack of follow through or ability to complete tasks with minimal supervision
  • Inadequate job knowledge and understanding
  • Failure to identify and proactively resolve problems

While repeated performance problems can be cause for discipline, to start, employers should help employees elevate their skills and abilities by offering support such as:

  1. Training: Educational offerings, especially hands-on or one-on-one options, that help an employee better understand the company’s products, processes or technology can positively affect on-the-job performance so give them the tools they need.
  2. Colleagues: Another option is to have management spend additional time with employees who need it so they can better understand how to perform their job correctly. Even a coworker who performs a job’s tasks well could help the employee learn how to adapt what they’re doing.
  3. Regular Communication: Once you spot poor performance, it’s important to stay on top of it so monitor employee work, perform regular evaluations, and provide feedback. And check that any interventions are having the desired results so that workers have the best chance to succeed.

Employers can’t afford to ignore misconduct or poor performance. For more information, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 888-865-4470.


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