Performance Management Is Simple: You Either Work Hard, or You Don’t

Photo by istockphoto
Photo by istockphoto

HR ladies secretly love to write performance improvement plans.

Let’s face it — performance problems are exciting. No matter how it ends, HR looks like it is making an impact on the company. And you get to use your lawyer voice!

(Why the hell did I earn my SPHR if I can’t play lawyer?)

If you are going to get involved in the performance management process, you need to have a governing philosophy. My beliefs are very simple:

  1. Embedded in every private employment relationship is the explicit requirement to show up and do your job. This is non-negotiable.
  2. In the absence of a job description, employees are still expected to show up and do a good job. Who the hell told you that you need a job description to do your job? If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do for a living, ask. You are not allowed to sit on the computer and await further instruction.
  3. No one is obligated to warn anybody about anything. Poor performance is poor performance. You are not paid to suck.

I know my philosophy is tough, but anyone who has worked with me (or for me) during the past 15 years knows that I go out of my way to recognize and reward exceptional work. And I am the first person to tell a manager to go to hell if he or she is abusing their power, mistreating an employee, or being racist, sexist, homophobic or stupid.

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I really tried to be a thoughtful and deliberate HR lady. I have taken my performance management philosophy into the world of agencies and entrepreneurialism. And I just think you either work hard or you don’t. And if you don’t work hard and contribute to the general well-being of an organization, it is time for you to go.

No drama. No tears. And no HR ladies or lawyers, please. Let’s all be adults, okay?

This originally appeared on Laurie Ruettimann’s The Cynical Girl blog.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


11 Comments on “Performance Management Is Simple: You Either Work Hard, or You Don’t

  1. Thanks for realty check article. Yes indeed, as an employer there are certainly work rules that must be understood by my employees. If you don’t show up you get zip…and maybe even get fired. As an incentive provider company and needing to respond to the needs of my clients I absolutely must also help them find a balance to create a performance culture. Not by throwing money or trinkets or bribes, but by understanding how to engage and motivate real people with real needs to feel a part of a team.

  2. If only the world could see it for what it simply is, common sense. The field of LR would be a whole lot different now wouldn’t it?

    Great article, plain rough and simple but to be honest, that is how it is. You either show up or you don’t.

  3. I have to say I don’t really agree with this simplistic, and rather onesided, view. Yes, of course, showing up is just the cost of entry and employees who can’t even manage to show up don’t deserve a job with your company. And I do agree with you on job descriptions – not always that helpful particularly in the world of the knowledge worker. But, as an employer, don’t you think you owe it to people to give them a clear view to the strategy of the company, the why of what the company does, and how what they are being asked to do day-to-day supports both of those things. And although the employer friendly at-will labor laws of the US generally do mean you don’t have to warn people – it does seem that if a company values their employees (and hopefully they do or why hire them?) then it seems they’d also want to help develop them and help them succeed

  4. This kind of foolish, linear thinking is what makes organizations fail. This is Theory X thinking at its worst. Read MacGregor. And Deming. If you have a performance problem, telling the employee to shut up, get to work or leave is the stupidest thing you can do.

  5. “Poor performance is poor performance. You are not paid to suck.” Blunt, but true—this performance management philosophy of “you either work hard, or you don’t” is similar to ROWE (results oriented work environment). At Mom Corps, we operate through ROWE and, like you, often get the opportunity to recognize and reward exceptional work, as our employees are highly motivated to succeed. Time and physical presence should not be a measure of work, therefore we use ROWE as a tool for measurement, and as our workplace evolves, more organizations are catching on to the idea.-Allison O’Kelly, founder/CEO Mom Corps

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