Supervisors would take more responsibility for lifting their staff's game, or keeping up their good work, under new directions for the bureaucracy's workforce.
The agency overseeing federal bureaucrats has directed middle managers and their staff to take a greater share of the load in keeping the bar high at their workplace.
Changes to the Australian Public Service Commission's directions for agencies follow a series of poor reviews from public servants asked about their bosses' handling of underperformance.
Public service commissioner Peter Woolcott, who released the new directions on Wednesday, said the rethink would broaden responsibility for performance beyond agency heads.
They would also focus agencies on rewarding high performers, rather than simply handling underperformance.
"It's a cultural change we're making, to bring to bear on the public service," he said.
Former public service commissioner, John Lloyd, slimmed down the directions to agencies on staff performance and removed instructions for supervisors in 2016 as the government pursued reforms cutting "red tape".
The pendulum has swung back under Mr Woolcott, setting out obligations for lower-ranking bureaucrats once more.
While Mr Lloyd's directions charged agency heads with overseeing their workforce's performance, new guidelines tell staff to seek conversations with their bosses about their work.
New directions tell staff to be open to feedback and act on it quickly. They also instruct bureaucrats told they aren't performing to cooperate with their boss to resolve problems and do any training needed.
Supervisors are told to tackle performance problems quickly, and to give public servants clear, timely and respectful feedback.
"It should not be reserved for yearly or half-yearly formal 'performance discussions'. The content of such formal discussions should never come as a surprise to the employee," the new guidelines said.
"Issues that are not raised in a timely way will only become more complex and difficult over time."
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The guidelines instruct supervisors to use probation periods if a new employee isn't the right fit, and to document significant poor performance. Mr Woolcott said the public service had previously failed to use probation periods well.
Changes to the commission's directions - supported by the public service's most senior leaders - also require supervisors to speak to staff at least annually about their performance, goals, and fit in the agency.
The public service commission in 2017 found 41 per cent of bureaucrats responding to the APS employee census did not believe their agency dealt with underperformance effectively.