How to manage underperforming employees

It is now of high importance to any business to motivate employees and allow them to perform to the best of their ability. How do you deal with an underperforming employee? Many managers and business owners are of the opinion that if an employee is not performing as they are expected to then they will ultimately be dismissed.

What steps can an employer take before the problem gets to that stage? Below are some practical tips and guidance on steps an employer can take to manage and deal with underperforming employees.

1. Address the problem head on

If an employee is performing poorly, don’t wait until their annual appraisal to talk to them. Employee underperformance can be infectious so it is important not to let it fester on your team. It is rare that these situations resolve themselves, address them head on and early to reduce the impact on the business in the long term.

2. Maintain objectivity

It is important that employers make sure they do not approach matters of underperformance with a bias. If the employee’s mistakes are angering you, ask a senior employee to review their work and give feedback on performance. Try to find facts that will prove the root of the issues and whether it is a communication problem, systemic issues or a need for further training.

3. Start a conversation

Once you have established the issue and collected the necessary information, it’s time to talk with the employee in question. Tell them what you have observed and how their actions are affecting the team and business and stress that the business wishes to help them. Reassure the employee that you know they can achieve better and ask for ideas on how the issue can be resolved. Make this a collaborative process and get the employee to provide comments on feedback on their underperformance.

4. Offer coaching, training and assistance

If the employee is not interested in improving then there is little you can say or do to help them improve their performance and a decision will have to be made whilst ensuring that a fair procedure is followed should dismissal be the inevitable outcome.

If the employee is willing to learn and change, set out a specific improvement plan and set goals. Be realistic with the goals and make sure you give the employee ample time to achieve the goals, do not set them up to fail.

5. Follow up and monitor progress

Laying out a plan is the easy part. Ensure, as a busy employer, that you monitor the progress of the employee and stay on top of targets and developments. If as an employer you fail to monitor the process it becomes a worthless exercise.

If the employee is ultimately dismissed on grounds of capability it is important that the employer is able to show the performance issues raised and the plan set in place of which was monitored closely to establish a fair procedure.

6. Reward them for change

If the employee turns their performance around, as an employer you should ensure that this is acknowledged so they do not feel insecure about their employment and where appropriate, if performance has been dramatically improved, reward them.

If you would like any more information in relation to this article then please feel free to contact me via email: or visit my profile.

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