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Performance-Based Actions

Performance-Based Actions

A performance-based action is the reduction in grade or removal of an employee based solely on performance at the unacceptable level. Once an employee's performance has been determined to be unacceptable in one or more critical elements, the employee must be given an opportunity to improve performance on that element(s) to an acceptable level. The acceptable level of performance must be achieved and maintained on the critical element(s) for one year from the start of the opportunity period or the agency can take a performance-based action against the employee.

Elements and Standards

How an agency writes and uses elements and standards can have a significant effect on its ability to defend its performance-based actions. Six important facts supervisors must remember when writing and using elements and standards are to -

  • communicate to employees at the beginning of the appraisal period the elements and standards that will be used to appraise the employee's performance;
  • clarify standards throughout the appraisal cycle, especially when the standards are adapted to meet the changing demands of the job;
  • set objective and valid retention-level standards that are reasonably attainable and that are clear enough that most people would understand what the standards mean;
  • avoid absolute retention-level standards that allow for no error except in circumstances where failure to meet the standard would result in loss of life, injury, breach of national security, or great monetary loss;
  • avoid "backwards" retention-level standards that describe unacceptable performance examples of backwards standards are "fails to meet" and "performs inaccurately"); and
  • make clear whether failure in a subelement or on a component of a standard could result in failure in the critical element.

Poor Performance in a Team Setting

When the employee works in a team environment, rather than remove the person from the team, the poor performer should remain in the team structure during the opportunity to improve period to maintain the integrity and applicability of the performance standards. In this setting, team members would be able to assist the poor performer during the opportunity period through coaching and mentoring. However, the supervisor must monitory carefully the individual employee's performance within the team structure to determine whether the required improvement has occurred.

When using peer review and 360-degree assessment processes, performance problems initially may be defined through the 360-degree feedback process. However, the official communication of poor performance should be on a one-on-one basis with the team's coach, team leader, or mentor.

In a performance-based action, the employee has a right to challenge the bias of the rater. Normally, 360-degree assessment does away with single-source bias and leaves the raters anonymous. Without knowing who provided what rating input, however, the employee might not be able to adequately challenge the rating derived through the process (i.e., the average score of several raters).

For More Information

For additional information on performance-based actions, contact your agency's Employee Relations Office.

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