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6 ways to handle performance conversations with employees

Written by Editor

May 28, 2024

By Naledi Mokoena

Workplace performance is the cornerstone of the success of a company. According to Acacia Learning performance management highlights the importance of aligning individual and team goals within an organisation’s short and long term objectives, including its strategy. This is achieved through continuous feedback between leaders and employees through motivation and recognition. Furthermore the key to increasing employee productivity and performance is founded on the flow of communication within a company.

Here are six ways to manage performance conversations according to HR Dive :

Prepare employee for a dialogue

Leaders who give employees prior knowledge of difficult performance conversations, afford them time to prepare for it as opposed to putting them on the spot. No one wants to be ambushed or denied the opportunity to prepare.

It’s not what you say 

According to researcher Professor Albert Merhrabian from the University of California, nonverbal communication also focuses on body language. He believes nonverbal communication is more effective than verbal communication. A significant contributing factor to miscommunication is assuming that every employee will value the same communication style used by leaders. Human Resource professionals advise leaders to increase their awareness of employees’ unique traits, be respectful towards them and encourage growth opportunities as an outcome from performance conversations.

Set clear objectives for a conversation 

Planning the contents of a performance conversion in advance may assist all parties to stay focused on the objectives of the dialogue. Following a concise structure during difficult conversations, may also guide sound judgements that are not influenced by emotions or bias. 


Be open minded

Approaching difficult conversations with an open mind and keeping the door open for a positive and productive outcome is more likely to result in the generation of goodwill and a way forward that is a win-win.

Read the room 

Being able to interpret verbal and non-verbal cues is crucial in determining the overall temperament of a conversation. There may be instances where conversations don’t go as planned due to emotions, therefore it is imperative to pause before a conversation becomes hostile. The goal is to ensure there is a positive outcome from the conversation, further contributing to an employee’s productivity. 

Choose an ideal setting 

The location or environment in which you choose to have the performance discussion, also plays a pivotal role in the outcome of your meeting. Avoid having such discussions in informal settings such as coffee shops or restaurants where the probability of the conversation being misinterpreted is high. 

According to Acacia Learning, here are five essential ways to activate employees’ efficiency and performance: 

  • Personal development conversations
  • Innovation conversation 
  • Empower employees through conversations
  • Healthy work-life conversations
  • Constructive feedback conversations


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