Top 10 Effective Tips to Deal With an Underperforming Employee

If you have an underperforming employee, you want to do everything you can to help them to succeed. Companies invest time and money in training their staffs, so it’s better to help employees improve than to continue hiring and firing. Sometimes their poor performance is due to personal matters, and sometimes it is a reflection of inefficient management or organization which needs to be addressed.

Before you proceed against an employee who is not working up to expectations, take stock of the situation. You want to make sure that you understand all the circumstances, and lay out a plan of action for success.

1. Get the Facts

Before you confront an employee about their lackluster performance, make sure you have your facts straight. Check out the employee’s previous track record and see if this was an anomaly. Research the performance of similar employees to see if there are other factors at work: did you lose a big client? is the market down?

Make sure you have concrete numbers or other indicators to show your employee. You want definitive proof of declining performance.

2. Schedule a Meeting

If you can meet your employee face-to-face, set up a meeting right away. If they are far away, try to set up a Skype call.

This is a sensitive conversation, so being able to understand facial cues and body language is important.

You also want to jump on indications of below-par performance quickly in order to steer your employee in a more productive direction. If the two of you can come up with a better strategy together, you can “right the ship” before too much time and resources are lost.

3. Address the Situation Calmly

If you are having a behind-closed-doors talk with an employee, they are probably already anxious. Whether they know they have not been performing up to snuff or whether it is a surprise, they will probably be worried about their job.

During this initial conversation, you should stay calm and provide encouragement to your employee. Suggest ways to improve performance. Everyone has a bad quarter once in a while.

If you are calm and supportive, you will be better equipped to get to the bottom of why things are going south and better able to come up with a solution.

4. Listen to Extenuating Circumstances

If you instill trust in your employees, they can be honest with you if there is something going on that is affecting their job performance. It is possible that some might be hesitant to confide in you if there is something going on in their personal life. By encouraging a culture of open dialogue, you can better learn what might be going on with them that is causing their downturn.

If you find out that external circumstances are preoccupying your employee, you may suggest a little time off or counseling. If you discover that there is a situation at work which is affecting performance, you need to find out all you can so you can remedy the situation.

Sometimes poor employee performance is caused by job safety concerns or problems with other employees.

5. Consider Organizational Issues

Sometimes an underperforming employee is a signal of other issues in the workplace. Perhaps he or she is not the only one doing well, and it is a sign that things need to change.

If everyone in a particular department is suffering declining performance reviews, maybe you need to speak to the supervisor of that department. Are people being given adequate training? Are the performance goals reasonable?

Inadequate performance management can cost your company money. The cost of employee turnover can range from between 6 months of the position’s salary to 2 years for highly paid executive roles. For information on how to save yourself the costs of poorly managing your employees, read more here.

6. Create Performance Goals

Maybe your employee was not aware that there were specific goals he or she had to attain. Start the next quarter off right by setting clear-cut attainable objectives together. This will motivate them and give them a definite milestone to reach for.

Employees work better when they feel like they are part of something significant. Help them create goals which fit within the organization’s overall mission. If their personal success is tied to the success of the company, that will motivate them to do better.

These assessment points also give employees and supervisors indicators along the way to see if things are working. If not, they can adjust and refine so that more efficient processes can be developed.

7. Offer Training

Maybe your employee could use some further instruction to help them succeed. Maybe they need a few online computer classes, or a sales course to boost their confidence.

Workers like to be given the chance to improve, and by offering training and other professional development, you can improve morale and performance.

8. Follow Up

Set a date at your face-to-face to assess improvement. This gives your employee a timeline and goal to work towards.

If it was a personal matter which was negatively affecting them they may be able to tell you how that situation is evolving. If you instituted changes to address an internal issue, this is a good time to see if your measures were appropriate or if you need to change tactics.

9. Reward Improvement

Everyone responds well to encouragement, and rewarding someone for a job well done is integral to good management. If your employee has turned their performance around, let them know.

A verbal or written “thumbs up” is a good way to acknowledge improvement. If the change is remarkable, you may want to reward them with a bonus or public recognition like “Employee Of the Month.”

10. Be Prepared to Act if Goals are Not Met Consistently

On the other hand, if the employee continues to fall below expectations, you will need to make a change. You need to set an example for other employees that you hold certain standards for employment in your company.

You may be able to transfer an employee to a department where he or she is better suited.

You may have to let them go if they consistently fail to meet the expectations you have set despite your best efforts.

An Underperforming Employee Can Help You Improve Your Organization

By learning to handle an underperforming employee, you will also learn a great deal about improving your organization. You will be forced to see your team as humans, who sometimes fail. You will be obliged to scrutinize your processes to see how to make things better for your employees and more efficient for your bottom line.

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