Sometimes, some of the employees over perform while others perform very badly. for those who work very hard, thank you letters and raises are motivations for them.

As CTO, I have a case that one of my senior staff members is not performing well. I have had a one-to-one meeting with him, I sent him encouraging emails, and finally tough emails telling him that he is under performing and should do better. He is not changing!

This is starting to affect the morale of the team he is in - the argument (from mainly for intermediate and junior level employees) being:

How is he considered senior when we are performing better than him? It is not fair that he is paid more than us.

Now, honestly, I am thinking of terminating him, but I don't want to leave a chance for anybody to explain, justify or predict the reasons behind termination on his/her behalf.

Do you recommend publishing Appreciation Letters for those who perform well and warning letters for those who perform badly using email to all or by posting these letters on bulletin board? What is the best way to let everybody know that the company is appreciating the work of hard workers and punishing the negligent ones.


Praise in public, punish in private, for anything short of an immediate-firing offense.

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    +1 Short and sweet. To add some intuition as to why: Public shaming is a huge demoralizer, and it would turn me off even if I saw it being done to someone else. Unless your boss is Sergeant Hartman and you're Private Pyle, ...oh look how that worked out :) – rath Feb 22 '15 at 16:50

Absolutely not.

No matter what your role is in the organisation, posting "warning letters" about sub-standard employee performance on a public bulletin board is obviously entirely unacceptable.

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    Could you expand why this is unacceptable? It's not obvious to the OP or they wouldn't be asking. – Myles Feb 24 '15 at 14:19
  • @Myles: Teaching basic and fundamental global social etiquette is way out of scope here; I just wanted to make crystal clear that the answer is "no". Usually I would follow this up with an explanation but if it's not already obvious to the OP then I'm not sure what I can do to fix that in a single SE answer! – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 24 '15 at 14:36
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    Cite sources that this is fundamental global social etiquette. In Korea, given that student grades and class rankings are publicly posted I would be suprised if they share your view of this universally accepted etiquette. Saying "The answer is obvious!" does not meet the answer requirements for SE. It disrespects the OP and anyone else facing this issue in the future. Either give a proper answer or don't bother answering. – Myles Feb 24 '15 at 16:46
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    @Myles: Grades and class rankings are one thing. They're public here too. But that's not a workplace. Do you think that in Korea, or anywhere, there is a company that publishes "warnings" to under-performing employees on public boards? Honestly interested in your view (ideally without the loathing and condescending tone of your previous comment). – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 24 '15 at 17:12
  • I do beleive it is possible. Knowing of the existence of all sorts of backwards management philosophies and all sorts of cultural approaches to privacy do you honestly beleive that no company anywhere does this? – Myles Feb 24 '15 at 21:40

Shaming employees in public is a real dick-move. It will not just kill the motivation of the one you sanction, but also of all other employees. When verbal and written warnings do not help but you don't want to fire them outright yet, there are other ways to express your disapproval:

  • Use their inability to improve as a reason to deny them a raise the next time one is due
  • Ignore them when it comes to promotions or other special perks
  • Take away responsibilities they are unqualified for and give them new responsibilities nobody likes doing

By the way, public praise isn't much better either. It gives no tangible benefit to the employee. But it makes everyone else jealous of the employee and segregates them from the rest of the team because it gives them a reputation of "Boss's favorite". So it can do more bad than good. When you want to give public praise, praise the accomplishment of the team as a whole. This improves motivation while also improving their team spirit.


I am writing this on the assumption that you are the line manager. If you are not then the correct thing to do is feed back your concerns to them initially and if that doesn't elicit a satisfactory response, to their line manager.

i tried to discuss it with him by one-to-one meeting, by encouragement email, and finally by tough email

Did you try to have a discussion one-to-one or did you actually have a discussion? Did you make your expectations clear? Did you both come out of it with more understanding of expectations and why they're not being met? What did you agree between the two of you? What did you not agree on?

Certainly document serious problems in writing, but writing a 'tough email' is not an assertive or effective way of improving the performance of someone working for you. You should arrange a meeting between yourself and the employee in which you can discuss the problem, ask why things weren't done how you'd expect, and work out a plan for how to support them to meet expectations (and, if necessary, for you and others to communicate their expectations)

Your company should have a policy for managing performance. Follow it. If it doesn't, ask HR to produce one. Local laws or union agreements may require you to follow certain minimum procedures so that people are protected from bullying and have the opportunity to engage with constructive feedback. In most cases performance management is done privately.

However, if people complain about someone's performance focus on the listening. You need only one of two answers:

  • "Thanks for letting me know, I'll talk to X about it"
  • "Thanks for letting me know, I've already spoken to X about it and we're working on improving that" (In this case it's a good idea to make sure X knows that you'll be saying that).

Don't go into details, don't complain about other things X has done, work on the assumption that X is able to improve and give them the support and direction they need.


Firstly, are you sure the problem is motivation and not the knowledge that the entire department is doomed?

You really need to think about what constitutes motivation, because right now your workplace sounds like a bad skit from a parody on office life. It is insulting to assume that thank you on its own is motivation enough. Thank you is the bare-minimum.

If thank you is the sum total of your motivation, even if you throw in some posters of an inspiring eagle you're not just losing the battle - you're losing the wrong battle. The senior member probably realised that he/she can get paid better somewhere else, and/or that hard work here isn't meaningfully rewarded to be worth the effort. . All cut, your revised question indicates you pay more too.

Sending out demeaning emails isn't going to solve this issue, it is just going to compound it. Not just in this senior member, in others too. You might get some harder work out of everybody - but it will be the wrong kind of work. The kind that means you no longer have a reason to fire anybody, but nobody is soaring either. That's the kind of work that builds a mediocre company, full of miserable people.

Incidentally, It is not ok for management to blame an uninspired employee for poor team morale. Morale and culture come from the top, from the leadership shown. Is the poor morale coming from one non-management person, or management's decision to lead by thank you and demeaning emails?

If you are in dire straights, this will probably work in the very short term. After that, the rubbish work being produced and the outflow of talent will bring the company down.

Thinking a company should punish bad work shows a terrible, feudal-style understanding of modern corporate culture. Please don't do it. You will just cause an exodus of talent and morale.

Instead, focus on meaningfully inspiring your staff. Low pay isn't inspirational, nor is thank you. Providing leadership training, or opportunities to grow technically, or ownership of key items, or business understanding, or, and this is a novel idea - providing the training to leave to go join a better company - is inspirational.

Please don't start sending out demeaning emails, and at least use honest, accurate motivational posters this time.

  • I am sorry if it was unclear. I am CTO, and he is a member in my team. other team members were complaining because they are intermediate level and he is senior but they are more productive than him. by the way,,, for motivations, i gave the junior and intermediate level a riase up to 80% of their salary. and for other seniors their raise was about 25%. so appreciation came through evaluation as well – WEB Feb 22 '15 at 17:40

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