Problem or Personality

Having the difficult conversation
Working with underperforming staff
Outline of day
9.30 – 9.40
Welcome and opening
9.40 – 9.50
Legal industrial context revisited.
9.50 – 11.15
Working with underperforming staff –personalities
and issues
11.15 – 11.45
Morning tea
11.45 – 12.30
Strategies for working with underperforming staff
12.30 – 1.00
Strategies for managing self
1.00 -
Close and light lunch
Dealing with underperformers
Industrial processes require encouragement, coaching, establishing
standards and goal setting
Work well in many cases where there is an appreciation of
underperformance or of difficulties in the workplace.
Often fail because
– Lack of documentation of actions
– Staff member denies underperformance or causing problems in the
– Staff member blames supervisor personally for failure/ issues
– Whole process is intensely stressful for supervisor
Effectively deal with underperformance need understanding of
– Process
– How to deal with difficult personality types
– How to manage oneself
performance/Flinders EBA
• In the case of performance, the staff member has been provided
with the opportunity to understand the University’s expectation of
performance in the relevant academic profile
• The staff member has been afforded reasonable opportunity and
support to respond to and remedy concerns about performance
and/or conduct
• The supervisor determines that despite reasonable efforts to
remedy, the staff member’s performance and’/or conduct continues
to be unsatisfactory
• The supervisor makes a formal report to the executive dean.
Academic Misconduct/ Serious
Misconduct/ EBA
[‘Misconduct’] means:
conduct or behaviour of a kind which constitutes an impediment to the
carrying out of an employee’s duties or to an employee’s colleagues
carrying out her or his duties;
conduct or behaviour which is inconsistent with an employee’s obligations to
the employer, as specified in A8 of this Agreement; or
dereliction of the duties required of an academic office.
[‘Serious misconduct’] means:
serious misbehaviour of a kind which constitutes a serious impediment to
the carrying out of an academic’s duties or to an academic’s colleagues
carrying out their duties;
serious dereliction of the duties required of an academic office, or
conviction by a court of an offence which constitutes a serious impediment
of the kind referred to above.
Overview of process
• Document the alleged unsatisfactory performance/
misconduct/serious misconduct
• Ensure that staff member has been given opportunity to improve
performance ( unsatisfactory performance)
• Staff member must see and may comment on the allegations
• If unresolved, pass to a senior staff member (usually VC or DVC)
who will determine if misconduct/serious misconduct occurred and
nominate a penalty.
• Staff member may seek internal review of the finding and the penalty
• Review Committee involves a Chair, Union representative,
University representative
• Review Committee reports to VC who may determine the matter
• Possibility of further appeal to FWA
High Conflict Personalities
– Speak at you
– Speak loudly
– Changeable behaviour – may suddenly see you as a threat and hence
react aggressively,
– Blame others and you for all problems
– May be physically imposing
– May be attractive and persuasive
– Relieves intense internal stress by inappropriate, often angry behaviour
– Fear of abandonment
– Will seek validation from others about appropriateness of behaviours
Chronic feelings of internal distress
Thinks the cause of distress is external to him or her
Behaves inappropriately to relieve distress
Distress continues
Receives negative feedback on performance/ behaviour,
which in turn triggers further inappropriate reactions.
Behavioural patterns
Repeated interpersonal conflict
Identifies himself as a helpless victim
Inability to reflect on his/her own behaviour
Does not absorb behavioural or performance feedback
Vehemently denies performance or behavioural issues
Denies personal responsibility for performance improvement or
behavioural modification
• Seeks others to confirm that he or she is justified in their actions
• Focuses intense energy on blaming others and constantly is
analysing the situations.
Aggression - bully
• Asserts power because of authority and position, physical size or gender
• May be highly effective and valued in organisation
– Not easily subject to control by the organisation
– Selects staff who can be controlled, and denigrates others
– Works “on the margin” of the organisation of policies and rules when
they appear to block action
– Often uncompromising ,loose with the truth
– Behaviour can elicit inappropriate responses so it becomes who is
confusing who is the bully
– Exploits structures and loyalties
So I blame you for everything... Whose fault is
Persons without insight into
others and themselves
Poor performers
Persistent blamers
– Does not accept responsibility for actions
– When confronted attempt to refute suggestions or allegations of wrong
doing/ poor performance
– Focus on minor details rather than the core issue
– Will side track conversation into claims of your or others incompetence
– Will seek validation from others as to their competence or correctness of
In addition to our speaker’s many and
considerable lifetime achievements, she is widely
known as a piece of work.
– Characteristics
Focus on own needs and agendas
Highly ambitious
Self important
May be unrealistic about abilities
Blame others or the system for failure
Has a sense of entitlement
Lacks empathy
May be exploitative and take advantage of others to achieve their own ends
He just isn’t happy unless he is in the eye of the
Histrionic people
– Exaggeration
– Driving need to be the centre of attention
– Overly dramatic
– May create conflict situations to meet their need for drama or attention
– Turn small issues into big issues
– May refuse to let go of an issue
– Often will be involved in a series of “dramas” outside of work
For God’s sake, think! Why is he being so nice to
– Deceitful but plausible
– Work to put others in a bad light ( often subtly)
– May be unethical
– Not concerned about consequences for others
– Little remorse for bad actions
– Often ambitious
– Will demean you to others
– Often lack support from others.
Substance abusers
– Unexplained absences from work
– Unstable or unpredictable personal style
– Good at covering up for substance use or mistakes etc.
– May perform quite well
– Will deny abuse/problem
– High levels of anxiety
– Difficulty in being coherent,
– Often verbose
– Seek support and reassurance from others
– Sometimes incapacity to complete tasks in agreed time frame
– Blame the system or supervisor.
Personal problems external to
May be short term
– Illness
– Marriage or family breakdown
– Debt
– Problems with children
– Problems with eldercare

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