Being Cruel to be Kind in Performance Management

Guest Blog by Shakira Joyner of HCHR


When it comes to performance management, there’s a powerful link between productivity and what is commonly known as “compassionate leadership”.  The single greatest influence on profitability and productivity within an organisation is the ability of leaders to spend more time and effort developing and recognising their people, welcoming feedback, including criticism, and fostering co-operation among staff.



But what does it mean to be a compassionate leader?  Essentially, its having an understanding of what motivates employees, knowing their aspirations and challenges and creating the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be.  In other words, it’s about valuing people and being receptive and responsive to criticism whilst being realistic in the evaluation of their performance.


Compassionate Performance Management


It may sound controversial but good management is essentially an act of “compassion”. While not a word typically associated with organisational leadership and performance management, compassion in this context means taking responsibility for the growth and development of others.  But don’t confuse ‘compassion’ with ‘kindness’.  Most managers want to be nice to people but in managing the performance of employees there should also be an organisational purpose and a set of standards that employees are expected to adhere to.


A common dilemma is when a manager is reluctant to tell an employee that they are not performing because that person is perceived to be fragile. They may be a friend, be difficult to deal with; but for a manager faced with this situation, to stick their head in the sand is counter-productive. It’s also unfair to the individual concerned. Whether the reluctance to address the performance issue is due to kindness (or fear), failure to address the real issue actually blocks the under-performing person’s growth and the organisation will suffer in the long run.


Sometimes, you simply have to be cruel to be kind.


Enabling people to achieve their goals and getting them where they want to be will sometimes involve difficult conversations. Many managers don’t like having these conversations but to be compassionate (ie an effective as a manager and leader) they must have them.


But let’s not forget that compassion is a two-way thing. It flows from the top down but also, importantly, from the bottom up. In other words, hard conversations must be initiated by all staff, including subordinates who can give their bosses valuable feedback because all leaders need compassion to achieve personal growth and be the best they can be.


Becoming a Compassionate Leader


Every leader is different with different leadership styles and approach.  However, to become a compassionate leader or manager there are some key steps that should be taken to achieve this goal including:


·        Spending time and effort in managing people

·        Having clear values and practising what you preach

·        Giving employees opportunities to lead work assignments and activities

·        Encouraging employee development and learning

·        Welcoming criticism and feedback as learning opportunities

·        Giving increased recognition and acknowledgement to employees

·        Fostering involvement and co-operation amongst employees

·        Communicating a clear vision and goals for the future

·        Being innovative and encouraging staff to think about problems in new ways.



Developing performance management strategies and assisting organisations to implement these strategies is a key service offered by HCHR.  As an independent consultancy, we can often see the wood through the trees when it comes to employee performance whereas an in-house team can sometimes be too close to the issues to understand what is going on.


Author: Editorial Team

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