Select Page

Guest Blog by Helen Amery of Wild Fig Solutions:

“Helen is an Executive Coach for Directors of small businesses.  She’s seen the difference people can make to a business, and the difference great bosses can make to those people, so she spends her time helping bosses be great.  Helen has 15 years’ experience in HR and has a Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching.”


What Were You Thinking?

“He’s useless!”  “She’s never going to get it.”  “She’s a write-off.”  “He has to go!”  “I’m this close to sacking her!”

Familiar phrases?  Or even if you don’t say them out loud, familiar thoughts?

Trouble is, even if they’re just thoughts they affect the results we get.

This is a picture I use with many of my clients – our thoughts, affect how we feel, which affects how we behave, which affects the results we get.



So even if you just think “God they are useless” and don’t say it loud to anyone, it will cause you to feel more irritated by them than you would be by someone who you think is fantastic.

And if you feel more irritated by them, there will be evidence of those feelings in how you behave with them – it might be a slightly different pace or tone of voice, it might be the way you stand or sit when you talk to them, it might be where you talk to them e.g. they get taken into a separate room for a conversation, rather than just having a chat at their desk.  Or you might just be going all out and telling them they’re annoying you!

And so what?  It’s your business, you can run it how you choose.

Let’s just explore then, if you choose this, what might be the consequences?

Let’s bring it back to you, think of a teacher, a boss, or any authority figure in your life who didn’t believe in you.  Someone who you felt didn’t like you and who was always pulling you up for your mistakes.

How did you feel around them?  What effect did it have on your work?  What was your motivation like?  How confident did you feel?  What response did it generate in you?

These situations cause our primitive Fight, Flight or Freeze stress response to be triggered.  The strength of response is different for each individual, but it will be there to some degree because you’re being threatened.

The stress response means our brain closes down to give it a narrow focus (i.e. there’s a threat right here and we need to act now to stay alive), our blood flows away from our stomach to our shoulders and arms (we might need upper-body strength to fight, and blood in the stomach is no good for that), our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes shallower (we need to maximise oxygen ready for fighting or running).

In work today this means we either Fight – challenge back and prove them wrong about our abilities, we take Flight – resign and get another job, or we Freeze – go quiet, lose confidence, fear every bit of work we do because it might be wrong.

None of these is great for achieving our best in the long-term because, even for the Fight option where we might feel productive for a short time, prolonged stress is not good and takes its toll on us physically and mentally.

Which of these responses do you recognise in yourself?  How did you respond to that person who was always finding fault with you?

And what does it mean for those people who are driving you crazy at work that you just want rid of?

What impact are your thoughts having on how you feel about them?

What impact are your feelings having on how you behave around them?

What results are you getting from that? – are you getting the best from them, or causing them to Fight, Flight or Freeze?

And of course, you could just kick them out – but what will they tell their friends and family, and then what will they tell their friends and family…… – all people who are your potential customers and potential employees?


What if you switched your thinking?

What if you imagined they were your best employee?  Name who that best employee is in your team.

And then for every situation when you feel frustrated, ask yourself, what would I do now if they were that person?

What would I be thinking?

How would I be feeling?

How would I act or behave?

What kind of conversation would I have with them?

If you start to believe they’re capable, it will filter through to how you feel about them, which will influence how you behave and that will influence the results you get.

By the way, this isn’t about everyone happily skipping around giving each other hugs and smiling.  This is about improving theirs and your business’s performance.  It’s about giving them feedback on how they can improve with thoughts in your mind like “I’m telling you this to help you learn because I believe you can be more than you are today”, rather than “I’m telling you this because you’re really annoying me and I want you out!”  It makes quite a difference.

I worked on this with a client once and the under-performing member of his sales team grew his sales by 400% in the next month!  Not bad going from changing your thoughts.

Even if they turn out to not be up to your job, you might have spotted something they would be good at, you might be mutually agreeing that this isn’t the right place / job for them, you could be pointing them towards where they should focus, and they’ll be telling their friends and family how great you are for supporting their career!

If you’ve successfully changed your thoughts to change the results you get then you’re very unlikely to get anywhere near having to look at formal performance management but, sometimes these things happen, and this is where I hand over to the experts at Bray & Bray.

What to do about employees with consistent poor performance

Commenting on the legal implications of poor performance from an employer’s perspective, says:

“When an employee is displaying evidence of poor performance in relation to their work, it is best to begin with informal, private conversations with the employee to try to find the problems or issues that are preventing them from performing well.  Any such conversations must also be recorded in writing.

“If poor performance continues after taking informal action, the matter should then become formal.  Areas that can relate to poor performance include issues such as inflexibility; an inability or lack of inclination to establish good working relationships, whether internally or externally; and of course lack of productivity in relation to an individual’s performance.  At this point an investigation should be carried out, which may result in a hearing.”

Questions about dealing with poor performance at work

For more information and advice about what can be classed as poor performance and what you can do about it, speak to an employment law specialist.

For one-to-one Executive Coaching to improve your own or others’ performance, contact Helen Amery, Wild Fig Solutions Ltd on 07718 316 616 or email