5 Ways to Deal an Underperforming Employee

5 Ways to Manage an Underperforming Employee

I enquire of human resource managers everywhere: “What is the worst aspect of being a manager?”

Honestly, “Managing people” is the most common response I receive.

Understandable! People management would be much more pleasurable if we weren’t required to do it. One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is managing underperforming individuals, which has a significant impact on the team and the organisation. Why do so many managers evade this responsibility, then? The tools and training required to deal with the awkwardness of managing a low-performing employee are simply not provided by the majority of leadership development programmes (assuming a leader is fortunate enough to go through one). There are so many managers that place the burden of change on the underperforming employee before giving up and declaring, “There’s nothing else I can do.”

There are, however, more options. Take note of these five stages as a potential toolkit and set of interventions. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but it can serve as a guide for this extremely crucial yet challenging duty.


ResearchNumerous factors can contribute to underperformance. When you see that an employee is failing in comparison to your expectations, the first thing you should do is try to grasp as much of the situational context as you can. In many instances, the employee has not fully grasped or been adequately articulated the expectations by which you, the manager, are evaluating performance. Additionally, it’s possible that they are struggling to live up to your expectations due to other unidentified aspects of their personal or professional lives.

Opening a discourse with the employee is one of the best ways to get this data. Be sure to express your concerns and show interest in what they have to teach you. A problem involving poor performance is rarely one-sided.


COMMUNICATEToo many human resource managers routinely bring up employee complaints at the yearly performance review. Leadership in this manner is ineffective. In order to prevent misunderstandings, job and management expectations should be conveyed clearly and frequently. One thing to keep in mind is that communication involves both the management and the employee understanding each other’s expectations. Consider it an agreement when you are sharing your expectations.

In a similar vein, it is crucial that employees fully get your concerns and what needs to be done to make things right when you are explaining how they have fallen short of expectations. Maintaining consistent communication with your staff is also crucial. After communicating a concern and a suggested fix, if you don’t touch base with the employee for a month, they might assume that the issue has been entirely and permanently handled. Just picture their shock when they receive their annual review.

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RECONSIDERWhat are the top three abilities required to be a better people manager, managers frequently ask me. I’ve learned over the course of my career that there are numerous methods to manage, regardless of how many people you are in charge of. Too frequently, the most natural way to manage an underperformer does not align with the way their boss naturally leads. Because of this dissonance, the manager frequently gives up, saying something like, “There’s nothing else I can do.”

Fortunately, this statement is false. There is an endless amount of potential. Just change the way the manager manages the employee. What is required for the employee to succeed? What abilities can they hone in order to fulfil expectations? What distinctive traits might be emphasised or improved to increase effective productivity? A new perspective on this employee could inspire both you and them.


CONSENTMake an agreement for how and when these issues will be resolved after the employee has a thorough understanding of the standards and how exactly they have been failing to live up to them. Detail is essential at this time. Possibly the plan would be for your underperforming employee to improve from 50% to 60% over the next two weeks, 60% to 75% over the following two weeks, and 75% to 90% the following month if the employee has trouble turning in half of their work late while the rest of the team is able to get in an average of 90% of work on time.

Work with the employee to determine what (again, with clarity) will need to be done to attain these goals after the employee has agreed to the time-bound metrics of success. Check to determine if the employee has improved to the level they agreed to at each milestone of the objective. You must maintain constant communication with the employee at this stage. The management must assess whether the employee is genuinely improving, whether the plan needs to be modified, and whether proceeding to step 5 is required.

5: Let’s go

Let's goTerminating an employee’s employment in a proper manner is one of the most crucial things a management can do. Unfortunately, a lot of human resources managers will let these workers switch between departments and jobs, happy that “they’re not my responsibility anymore.” There are instances where an individual performs admirably in a separate department despite being poorly suited for one position. These are not the circumstances we’re discussing. We’re referring to workers who are moved around because the supervisor finds it too challenging to complete the essential job for termination.

This is significant because an employee who has advanced to this stage is well aware of their underperformance. Because they are probably not proud of their work and may feel as though they have let you, their peers, or themselves down, they are probably under a lot of stress. The team, the organisation, and their own career will all benefit more in the long run if they are let go at this point. All leaders must bear in mind that, just as weeds must be prevented, handled, and ultimately eliminated to keep the garden healthy, employees must be managed to ensure the productivity and well-being of the team.

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