How to Manage Underperforming Employees

Great managers do their best to help their direct reports succeed at work. After all, when the team succeeds, the manager succeeds. There may be times when some employees aren’t performing their best.

  • Common examples of underperforming employees  are:
  • Delivering tasks below the expected standard
  • Display of poor or unethical behaviour
  • Breaking company rules or procedures

When not managed effectively, such employees will bring harm to the team and company. For example, other team members may resent the individual for delaying their job or having to pick up that person’s task.

It will decrease productivity and decline morale amongst employees in the long run. If you’re managing a team and have such issues, this article will help you to manage underperforming employees.

Don’t Criticise In Public

When dealing with underperforming employees, refrain yourself from criticising them in public. Talking about their underperformance in front of others only makes them defensive, hurt, and embarrassed. It could also harm your reputation, especially when you hold a high position in the company.

Address the issue as soon as possible

If you notice your employee’s performance and behaviour declining, address the issue as soon as possible. In some cases, they may not realise these changes and think that everything’s fine since you’re not saying anything.

Don’t wait for a few weeks or withhold your feedback until their performance review. When you speak to them, tell them that the purpose of the meeting is to help them find a solution. Listen to what your employees may have to say. Before you end the meeting, confirm that they’re clear about the issue and improvements that they have to work on

Ask yourself these questions

Seeing your employees underperform can be disappointing. You could internally reflect by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do they have the skills, experience, and proper software to complete the task?
  • Did they receive adequate training?
  • Do they have a chance to develop their skills and advance their careers?
  • Did you give them a clear brief of the expected result?
  • Are their current duties aligned with the job description they applied to?
  • Do they look like they are having a personal issue?
  • Do their personalities blend well with the company’s culture?

Set up an individual meeting to discuss the issue

The questions above can serve as references when you have an individual meeting with underperforming employees.  As a manager, it’s best to set up an individual meeting with them to understand the situation rather than speculating.

Start by asking them why and how you could help them. Then, you could discuss what could be the best solution. Remember to be specific when addressing their underperformance. It would be best if you had your figures and documentation ready.

Create an action plan together

It’s best to be specific when dealing with underperforming employees. For example, conduct a one-to-one performance review with the underperforming staff.

Outline what’s expected from them, the training they need, and the targets they have to achieve. Set specific timeframes for any training and deadlines. Ensure that you set regular performance reviews every two weeks or monthly to monitor their progress.

Recognise and reward their improvements

Sometimes, a lack of recognition can hurt the employee’s morale, resulting in underperformance. Remember to motivate the employees too along the way. You don’t have to wait until their next performance review to recognise their improvements.

Once you see an improvement, praise them and motivate them to keep up the good work. Even better, you can treat them to a cup of coffee or invite them for lunch.

Focus on their job satisfaction

Did you know that happiness affects productivity? Happy employees perform better than unhappy ones. Find out your underperforming employees’ likes and dislikes about their job.

Could it be that they find no fulfilment in their job duties? Maybe they feel they can concentrate better when working remotely? Or their personal issue is affecting their performance?

Find out what works for them and the organisation to achieve the expected result. In addition, you could initiate team building or social activities so that your team members could strengthen their bonds with each other and be more productive.

No improvement? Change your demeanour

So, you had an individual meeting with them, created an action plan together, gave proper training, and so on, but see no improvement? It’s time to change your demeanour. Perhaps you’ve been too kind. Thus, they’re taking advantage of it.

Being an empathetic leader is good, but you must be firm. You may tell them:

This is the second follow-up meeting, and I haven’t seen any improvement in your performance. If you keep this up, there are consequences that you’ll face.

Avoid micromanaging

Managers need to pay extra attention to underperforming employees. However, this doesn’t translate to micromanaging them. It would make them feel more stressed and overwhelmed. You’ve created the action plan together, so let them finish the task their way.

Be flexible with their style of working

Are you being too strict with your direct reports, allowing no freedom in the workplace? Perhaps, that’s the reason why they don’t perform well. From an employee’s perspective, I’m more motivated to give my best when working in a flexible and healthy environment. Having a manager who gives me freedom is a great help too.

For example, I don’t have to be at my desk all the time. I’m free to work from anywhere in the office. My previous manager allowed me to move seats because I wasn’t comfortable with the lighting, although that meant I would be sitting far away from the team.

Sometimes, you need to let them go

You’ve done all you could, but if the employee isn’t willing to make a change, don’t blame yourself. When nothing works, accept that you need to let them go. Invite them for lunch, tell them how you feel and why you need to let them go. Explain how the employee’s actions or behaviour have affected the team and company.

Avoid being too emotional and talk to them as a friend. Depending on the situation, give them a considerable notice period to manage their finance and career plan.

As a manager,

It’s important for you to learn how to manage underperforming employees.  The success of your employee is essential for you and your company. Before this article comes to an end, here’s an extra tip for managers – ask for feedback. You may have some blind spots too! These blind spots could affect your performance at work.

I hope this article helps!

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