Should Employee Behaviour Play A Part In Performance Management?

Consider the time, effort, money, and (sometimes) frustration that can go into recruiting new employees.

Whether you manage a department or are a member of your company's senior leadership team, you have likely experienced first hand how important it is to find the right person for the job the first time and then to retain them to avoid having to repeat the process.

One of the most effective tools that management has to retain our best employees is a comprehensive employee performance management system.

The Inherent Flaw of Many Employee Management Systems

Whether consisting of a simple performance review or a more complex monitoring and reporting system, employee performance management can be used to keep employees engaged and motivated, leverage employee strengths, and help good employees to become great.  

Conversely, employee performance management is also used less effectively, as more of an “employee policing” tool to ensure employees are actually fulfilling their basic obligations and duties.

Regardless of the focus of employee performance management in your organization, it is highly probable that the performance being "managed" is centred on task- or project-related results and outcomes as defined by an employee's job description.

However, by restricting the definition of "employee performance" to how well an employee performs as a contributing member of the company based solely on outcomes exposes a giant flaw in the process.  

This flaw comes back to the cause and effect relationship between an employee's inputs into their work (effort, commitment, initiative, etc.), and the outcomes of those inputs (completed tasks and projects).

This relationship between input (cause) and outcome (effect) implies that even the best employees will simply not perform well, based on this restrictive definition, if their inputs are impeded in any way.

How Incivility Harms Performance

In many work environments, especially those with no comprehensive conflict neutralization system in place, a common factor that impedes an employee's inputs (e.g. effort, attention to detail, etc.) is employee incivility.

Employee incivility, which can be defined as any behaviour exhibited by an employee that is intended to be, or perceived as intended to be, rude, offensive, discourteous, or harmful to another employee, can quickly cause the performance levels of your top-performers to plummet in no time.  

Consider this real-world example that was recently dealt with.

A manufacturer had created culture of "healthy competition" amongst it sales people.  The idea was that individual sales people would compete, in a friendly and sportsman-like manner, to achieve "top spot" each month and win bragging rights.  

Unfortunately, this brought out the worst in a couple of the sales people.

This became apparent when the elderly parent of one of the top sales people unexpectedly had some medical issues that needed attention requiring the salesperson to be absent from work at odd times throughout the day. 

Two other salespeople, both of who allowed their desire to win to cloud their judgment and affect their workplace behaviour, quickly noticed these absences.

They began spreading false rumours about their colleague to "explain" his absences in the hopes the rumours would "throw him off his game" enough that they could each move up in the standings for that month.

Unfortunately, their behaviour achieved its desired effect as the rumours gained a life of their own to the point where other employees in the company who believed the rumours to be true were harassing the targeted salesperson.

As a result, the sales of the top performer fell steadily to the point that he received a written warning from his manager that he needed to improve his results.

Despite this salesperson having the proven skills, desire, and commitment to perform at a high level, he was unable to do so because of the harassment he was receiving.

His head was no longer in the game, as it were.

Under the company’s existing performance management guidelines, focusing only on outcomes, the two antagonists would have been rewarded for their sales performance (and their inappropriate behaviour towards their coworker).

Fortunately this was prevented as management took action to investigate the matter in more depth.

Six weeks after this event - and a few long discussions about maximizing employee performance – employee civility was incorporated into this company’s performance management system to prevent a reoccurrence of this type of behaviour.

But..Isn't Employee Behaviour Too Subjective To Measure?

A criticism to the inclusion of employees' behaviour towards one another in a performance management system is that its measurement is too subjective, difficult, or unreliable.

In response to this most common criticism, we answer this is not the case.

With sufficient training and the selection of performance metrics based on quantifiable evidence and observable behaviours, managers can incorporate employee behaviour into their evaluation of employee performance in a defensible, objective way. 

A few easy to monitor suggestions are:

  1. The number of complaints against an employee (or their behaviour);
  2. The number of instances an employee has aided a colleague when they were not required to do so (based on specific observed or reported examples);
  3. An employee’s participation in office gossip or the rumour mill (yes or no);
  4. The number of times an employee is observed or reported acting out of alignment with the company's key values.

For a more complex performance metric, a short, simple survey can be created that asks employees to rank their colleagues' specific behaviours.

Each ranking can have a score attached to it and an employee's overall score will determine their “behavioural” performance.

Regardless of which method is used, it is critical to treat behaviour-based performance metrics like all of the others...which means it may have an impact on an employee's compensation, bonuses, job progression, etc.

High Performing Teams Must Exhibit High Performing Behaviour

Many companies talk about creating a high performing workplace culture but few have woven employee civility and behaviour into the fabric of their culture through the use of their employee performance management system.

By formalizing the relationship between overall employee performance and how civil they behave towards their fellow employees, management can take a significant step towards creating the productive, high performing teams that are the foundation of profitable companies today.

Including employee behaviour in your company's employee performance metrics is Professional Mastery in action. To learn more about the Law of Cooperative Action™ Professional Mastery, click the button below.