Performance management is the skilful art of drawing the best performance out of employees either by inspiring, praising,rebuking or inducing them to achieve the overarching objectives of the business.
Employees must have a clear understanding of their role and duties and know what rewards and penalties will result from good or bad performance. Therefore goals must not move without warning or explanation otherwise it is possible in extreme circumstances to provide the basis for a tribunal claim. For example an underperforming employee faced with a sudden change or increased work load may argue that this was done to pressure them into resigning thus paving the way for a constructive dismissal claim. This is why it is absolutely essential to ensure that an employee is aware of and accepts the goals set for them. This also means that the goals have to be achievable. If a good employee is tasked with an "impossible dream" target not only will you not get buy-in but they will think whoever set the target is an idiot.
However if you really think that a target is achievable and the employee is being too defeatist you should take them step by step through your reasoning. If they still do not share your view you may have to revise your approach as employee agreement provides you with something to point to if their performance falls short, without it the employee will simply say "I told you so" if things go wrong.
With the exception of the extremely clever, who prefer to be criticised, the vast majority of us prefer to be praised and clearly people work much harder for an employer that makes them feel valued and acknowledges their successes. If you have to deliver criticism it should never come as a surprise, an employee should be fully aware of his or her duties and the standard of conduct expected by the business. Whilst you must of course discuss target failures etc. this should be tempered with some applause for what went right or at the very least a few words to indicate confidence in the future.
© Tanda Migliorini & Associates LLP 2011