How to Address an Underperforming Employee

You may have heard the old saying that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel. But when it comes to your employees, one person who consistently underperforms can, in fact, negatively impact the effectiveness of others as well. Rarely do people operate in a vacuum. So for the sake of the employee, your team and your company, you need to take action.

Think Positive

Remember, at one point, the employee currently underperforming was hired based on their skills, qualifications and fit with your organization. So, don’t just write them off. The key is to accurately identify their current strengths and weaknesses, work collaboratively with them towards a solution, and support and encourage them to move forward.

Set Clear Expectations

Communication is critical with all employees, but especially with underperformers.

  • It can start as soon as Day One. If a new hire begins their job with a low understanding of what is expected of them, the wrong tone is already set. Remember: Specific expectations from a manager can vary somewhat from what’s outlined in a job description. Be sure every employee has a comprehensive feel for all their functions and responsibilities, as well as ample opportunities to ask questions and seek guidance when needed.

Make an Action Plan

Astute managers realize that employee behavior is not the sole responsibility of the individual worker, but rather something that both parties have to work on together.

  • Collaborate with the underperforming employee to draw a road map for improvement. Start with clear, delineated small steps. As those are achieved, you can move on to bigger responsibilities.
  • If necessary, create some new performance goals together. Inviting this level of engagement will help motivate the employee to work hard and strive for betterment.

Provide Ongoing Feedback

Don’t postpone feedback until an employee’s next scheduled performance review. Just like letting communications slack, this isn’t advisable with any team member, but in this case, it’s critical. Instead, schedule regular, ongoing check-ins.

  • Emphasize positive improvements and address shortcomings in a respectful manner. Focus on solutions and behavioral changes that will boost outcomes and lead to success.

Be a Role Model

Pay attention to your own behavior on the job. And, keep an open door and give every employee the opportunity to approach you with questions, suggestions and ideas.

  • Be aware of how you interact. Watch your body language, as well as verbal communications. Any negativity will be discouraging, so try to keep it in check. Otherwise, your efforts may backfire and you’ll only perpetuate the cycle of underperformance.

In most cases, underperforming employees sincerely want to do better. Approaching the issue in a positive, collaborative way keeps the overall work atmosphere more upbeat and is far more likely to improve results.

For additional tips on addressing performance issues and motivating employees for maximum engagement and productivity, partner with the workforce development experts at TRC Professional Solutions. Contact us today to learn more.