How To Ensure Performance Management Isn’t Bullying

The new Code (Industrial Relations Act 1990 Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work Order 2020) is clear that behaviours associated with the management of performance may constitute a pattern of bullying. These can include:

  • Belittling a person’s opinion.
  • Intimidation/aggressive interactions.
  • Excessive monitoring of work.
  • Withholding information necessary for proper performance of a person’s job.
  • Repeatedly manipulating a person’s job content and targets.
  • Blaming a person for things beyond their control.

The Code is also clear that behaviour which is considered to be bullying by one person could be seen as a routine interaction by another. Hence, the ‘reasonableness’ of behaviours over time should be considered in any assessment.

The most relevant example offered by the Code is that ‘objective criticism and corrections that are intended to provide constructive feedback to an employee are not usually considered bullying, but rather are intended to assist the employee with their work’.

On the same theme, the Code confirms that bullying does not include:

  • Offering constructive feedback, guidance, or advice about work-related behaviour, which is not of itself welcome.
  • Reasonable corrective action relating to the management and direction of employees (for example, managing a worker’s performance, taking reasonable disciplinary actions or assigning work).
  • Workplace conflict, where people disagree or disregard other points of view.

The Code explains that ‘ordinary performance management’ is not bullying.

What should an employer implement to achieve effective performance management?

The most appropriate means of effectively managing performance is not through a culture or management style that is intimidating, bullying and harassing the individual. Effective management of performance and behaviour is through alignment of meaningful goals that are SMART and the employee understands the standard required. It is also through meaningful and timely feedback on how the employee is getting on and how they are performing those SAMRT goals.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)

All feedback given regarding employee performance should be objective, reasonable and constructive.

Where necessary introduce a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) to help the employee reach the standard needed, provide them with the support and guidance as well as any necessary training or mentoring that may be required.

As the new Code points out in relation to managing performance, its where a ‘reasonable person’ wouldn’t describe as ‘clearly wrong, undermining and humiliating’ the manager in which they are being managed through the process.

Need more help? Voltedge Management team can help you to get advice on all aspects of human resources and management. Email Ingrid at or ring our offices at 01 525 2914.