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What are High, Middle, And Low Performer Conversations?


What are high, middle, and low performer conversations? I am trying to engage staff and find myself always focusing on the low performers without much success. I also worry about the fairness issue. I don’t want to be seen as playing favorites with my good staff.


In high, middle, and low performer conversations, your goal is to have key one-on-one conversations that move employees to the next level. By doing so, you can:

  • Recognize and retain your high performers.
  • Recognize and develop skills for your middle performers.
  • Confront low performers, outlining specific steps to improvement so they understand it’s “up or out.”

Here are three sample conversation openers you might use for individuals in each of these categories:

High Performer: “Elvira, I just want to take this time to tell you how much I appreciate your support by coming in early, staying late, and being flexible in learning new tasks. I really appreciate having you here at Caring Heart Hospital.”

Middle Performer: “Sandy, I want to thank you for doing an excellent job of responding to any question or task that I provide to you, but I would really like to see you develop some independence this next year and take additional initiative in the area of responding to patient concern letters.”

Low Performer: “Becky, I know that you have told me that you are rounding on your staff, but when I talk to them they indicate that they don’t see you. When you were hired, you agreed to meet our expectation to achieve patient satisfaction in your department at the 50th percentile, but you have not yet achieved this level.”

Fact: The majority of leaders say that they spend 80 percent of their time on the small percentage of their staff who are low performers. High, middle, and low performer conversations reverse that percentage by having the leader focus first on high performers, then middle performers, and finally on low performers.

And on a final note, if you keep focusing on low performers without success, you need to make sure the low performers leave the organization. It’s not fair for other staff, patients, and physicians to have to work with, or be cared for by, these individuals.