SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Performance and Conduct Guidelines FAQs

  • I’m unhappy with a probationer’s performance, what should I do?

    You should follow the relevant probation procedure and seek further advice from your HR Officer or HR Manager.  It is important to intervene early in probation cases to ensure that any problems can be addressed within the probation period.

  • I’m unhappy with an employee’s performance, but they have already passed their probation – what should I do?

    You should follow the Poor Performance Review Meeting Guidelines by conducting at least one structured review meeting with the employee.  The purpose of a structured review meeting is :

    • To give constructive feedback to ensure that the employee is aware of the performance problem, using actual examples
    • To establish if there are any problems (e.g. work, personal etc) which could be impacting on the employee’s performance
    • To ensure that the employee has a clear understanding of their role and performance standards
    • To set (and review) performance objectives which should be monitored over an agreed timescale
    • To identify if any support or training needs to be given to the employee to help improve their performance
    • To warn the employee that failure to perform to the required standards, could lead to disciplinary action being taken against them
    • To record that performance problems exist and what steps you have taken to address them

    The Poor Performance Review Meeting Guidelines provide you with step by step guidance on preparing and structuring the Poor Performance Review Meeting.  Further assistance can be obtained from your HR Officer or HR Manager (e.g. reviewing draft records of meetings etc).

  • How many review meetings should I hold with the employee?

    You will need to hold at least one Poor Performance Review Meeting with the employee.  The focus of the first meeting will be to identify the performance problem through constructive feedback and setting timely performance objectives for monitoring.  The focus of subsequent meetings will be on assessing how the employee has performed against these agreed objectives.   

  • What if the employee’s performance does not improve sufficiently?

    If the performance has not sufficiently improved, following consultation with your HR Officer/Manager, you will need to decide whether to:

    • Further extend the monitoring period for the performance objectives; this is normally recommended when some improvement has already been shown , but some additional time is needed to reach the appropriate level of performance commensurate with the grade and post.
    • Initiate the formal disciplinary procedure, which may result in the employee being given a formal warning about poor performance (and ultimately, after a series of warnings, can lead to dismissal).
  • A member of staff keeps on arriving late for work and has been rude to students. What should I do?

    Both deliberate discourtesy and frequent lateness are normally regarded as an instance of minor misconduct. Serious cases of misconduct should be handled through the formal disciplinary procedure.

    If the member of staff is still on probation, you should follow the relevant probation procedure and seek further advice from your HR Officer or HR Manager.  It is important to intervene early in probation cases to ensure that any problems can be addressed within the probation period.

    If the member of staff is not on probation, you should follow the Misconduct Review Meeting Guidelines by conducting at least one structured review meeting with the employee.  The purpose of a structured review meeting is :

    • To give constructive feedback to ensure that the employee is aware of the misconduct problem, using actual examples
    • To establish if there are any problems (e.g. interpersonal relationships at work, domestic issues etc) which could be impacting on the employee’s conduct at work.  For example, caring responsibilities can sometimes contribute to timekeeping problems.
    • To ensure that the employee has a clear understanding of the conduct that is required from them
    • To set (and review) objectives and standards of conduct at work which should be monitored over an agreed timescale.
    • To identify if any support or training needs to be given to the employee to help improve their conduct
    • To warn the employee that failure to meet the required standards, could lead to disciplinary action being taken against them
    • To record that conduct problems exist and what steps you have taken to address them.

    The Misconduct Review Meeting Guidelines provide you with step by step guidance on preparing and structuring the Misconduct Review Meeting.  Further assistance can be obtained from your HR Officer or HR Manager (e.g. reviewing draft records of meetings etc).

    You will need to hold at least one Misconduct Review Meeting with the employee.  The focus of the first meeting will be to identify the misconduct problem through constructive feedback and setting future standards/objectives for conduct at work to be monitored in a given time period.  The focus of subsequent meetings will be on assessing whether the employee is meeting the required standard or conduct objectives.  

  • What if the employee’s conduct does not improve sufficiently?

    If the conduct has not sufficiently improved, following consultation with your HR Officer/Manager, you will need to decide whether to:

    • Further extend the monitoring period for the objectives to allow the employee to fully meet the required standards of conduct and to ensure that the improvement is sustained
    • Initiate the formal disciplinary procedure, which may result in the employee being given a formal warning about poor performance (and ultimately, following a series of warnings can lead to dismissal).
  • How do I give constructive feedback; particularly on areas where I’m not happy with an employee’s performance?

    When giving feedback and reviewing performance against objectives, ensure your feedback is constructive. Focus on what the employee has achieved and done well and what could be improved or done differently.

    Discussions should be specific and factual; give actual examples rather than make broad or sweeping statements. This is particularly important with any areas for improvement as without specific examples, the employee may not accept your feedback about unsatisfactory performance and may become defensive.

    When giving constructive feedback, it is very important that you focus on performance rather than personality i.e. criticise what the person has done rather than who they are.

    Tips for givng constructive feedback;

    • Plan the feedback in advance and ensure you have a clear aim about the purpose of the feedback.
    • Consider in advance how you think the person may react to the feedback.
    • Focus on what the person does well
    • Be specific and factual – avoid generalisations by giving actual examples
    • Don’t give opinion or judgement
    • Encourage self-assessment by asking for the employee’s views in the first instance – they may already be aware of areas for improvement
    • Be tactful, objective and diplomatic – don’t patronise, show annoyance or use emotive language
    • Explain the effects of the employee’s actions or behaviour on colleagues, the section/team /Department/Faculty/Area
    • Encourage the employee to take full responsibility for his/her actions
    • Focus on the future – and what can be done to improve any areas of weakness or what could be done differently
    • Make it clear that you want to work with the employee to seek solutions to any problem areas
    • Let the employee know if you think them capable of improvement
    • Use the feedback ‘sandwich’ technique in which any ‘negative’ areas are ‘sandwiched’ between positive feedback:
      • First emphasis what worked well
      • Second, focus on what could have been done differently
      • Thirdly, give a summary of what might help and a reminder of the positive.
    Don’t sayDo say
    You are very carelessThere are regular mistakes in your work that we need to discuss.  Here are some examples.
    You’re hopeless at meeting deadlines and your work is always lateYou have missed the agreed deadline for [specific task/activity] on three occasions [Be prepared to give more detail as appropriate].  We need to talk about how to prevent this happening in future.
    You do a good jobYour data entry on the Students Record system is always very accurate and information is entered on time.
    You make too many mistakesI want to discuss what we can do to reduce the level of mistakes.
    Your management skills are not up to scratchWhat are your views on your ability to supervise and manage your staff regularly?
    I was really annoyed when you processed that invoice late.When you processed the invoice late, the outcome was that we lost our discount for early payment and it impacted on our relationship with this important supplier.
    You should have taken more responsibility on that [task/activity]Do you agree that you were the person responsible for that [task/activity]?
    You need to sort this problem outI want to discuss how I can support you in sorting this problem out
    Your performance is disastrousI believe that you are capable of improvement and would like to discuss what further training might be helpful in meeting your objectives
  • What should I consider when setting objectives or standards during meetings to improve performance or behaviour at work?

    You need to ensure that:

    • Objectives are clear and unambiguous.  Unclear standards of work or performance frequently contribute to performance problems.
    • Objectives are measurable and the employee’s performance or conduct can be assessed against them.
    • Objectives or standards are realistic and achievable in the proposed monitoring period.  For example, if the objective relates to student enrolment, you need to ensure that enrolment happens during the monitoring period.
    • Objectives are reasonable.  If the employee has not yet met the minimum standards for the role, don’t expect them to perform to the same standard as the most experienced and outstanding member of the team in a short period.  Sometimes objectives or standards may need to be set incrementally.

    Ideally try to get the employee to agree to the objectives; they are more likely to improve their performance or conduct if they accept the problem and agree with your standards.

    Example of a performance objective

    To ensure that all student ambassador timesheets are checked, processed, authorised and sent to Payroll by the 16th of each month to ensure that all student ambassadors are paid on time.

    Example of a conduct objective

    To consistently and promptly arrive at work at 9.00am to ensure that the helpdesk is opened on time to deal with student enquiries.  To contact me immediately to alert me if you experience problems beyond your control (e.g. transport strikes), so that I can make arrangements to cover the helpdesk.