I couldn’t help but agree with a CEO I was talking to last month about how difficult it is to maintain consistent adequate performance after an employee had begun to be formally performance managed.

A number of poorly performing employee situations we were both familiar with (let’s say 4 out of 5 on average) had only improved their performance for a small period of time after being performance managed, only to dip back into their old ways to become long term under performers.

Poor performance is legally defined as ‘when an employee’s behaviour or performance might fall below the required standard’.

Recidivism is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behaviour after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behaviour, or have been trained to extinguish that behaviour.

I suspect it would be a hard study to statistically validate, but is there a likelihood in the majority of performance management situations that we can expect to experience Poor Performance Recidivism within a period of time?

In other words, in most instances is it just a matter of time before a poor performer that may improve their performance go back to their undesirable work behaviours?

Many leaders may believe this is true, but as is fair, reasonable and legal, they soldier on with the performance improvement process and track toward an outcome, often an outcome of no return and employee dismissal.

While hard to tell, Poor Performance Recidivism could be a result of a “set and forget” management style. Sort out the problem and believe there will be a lasting change of behaviour only to have a lapse in between lengthy periods of time before more formal performance reviews occur.

This would most certainly reinforce the need for more regular manager/employee catch-ups such as a monthly one on one.

Perhaps the take away message is: Chances are once an employee becomes an under performer and may improve you can expect there may be a high likelihood in a lapse in performance that you are going to have to keep on top of some way.