Ways to Deal with Underperforming Employees

It is the nightmare of every manager - having to effectively deal with an underperforming employee. Managers are seldom aware of what is at stake for

It is the nightmare of every manager – having to effectively deal with an underperforming employee. Managers are seldom aware of what is at stake for the employee and it could be the possible economic hardship that will follow if they are fired or the possibility that their personal life will be left in shambles.

It is possible that you have no reason to dislike the employee as a person outside your work life. But unless things change significantly, keeping them on board would be unfair to the rest of your team and also the company too.

At this point you may be wondering what you can do in order to give this low performer another chance before you must let him or her go.

Following are some ways to deal with an underperforming employee:

Empathy and honesty

You may find it tempting to tell them what you really think about their performance. Being honest is a good way to deal with an underperforming employee but the honesty should revolve around what can be done to bring about an improvement in their performance.

When it comes to reviewing their performance you should be empathetic in your approach. The empathy should clearly reflect in your communication. As a leader it is your responsibility to develop an environment where learning is encouraged and employees don’t fear their superiors.

Telling the truth can make the concerned employee take ownership of their poor performance and serve as an opportunity for them to understand the problem as well as the solution.

But if the truth is not delivered in the right way it may have quite the opposite effect. In the face of brutal honesty people often tend to become overly defensive.  

It doesn’t mean that one should avoid telling the truth altogether as it can prevent people from reaching their true potential.

Write down the conversation

The preferred thing to do when interacting with an employee whose performance you wish to improve is to have a visual conversation. You should make use of a pen and notepad and ensure that you are listening closely to visually capture what exchanges between the both of you.

If it is just you and the employee in question talking the conversation is a ‘two point’ communication whereas the communication should be ‘three point’ for it to be truly effective.

A whiteboard or a notepad serves as the third point and you can use it to make illustrations so that the conversation flows in an easier way. The content and also the conversation becomes clear and focused on objective information. It can also help you to avoid the shame or tension which is usually a by product of conversations like these.

Faster feedback

Once you have identified an employee as an underperformer you should bridge the gap that previously existed in giving feedback. If their performance begins to falter they will need frequent and also more immediate feedback so that they can change their course in time and do so effectively.

Tackle it right at recruitment

The underperformance of an employee is often due to a problem from the employee’s end to engage within the business or misaligned abilities and skills. Engagement is a determining factor when it comes to performance and it is often the result of induction and hiring.

Sometimes the reason behind the underperformance of an employee is because they feel that they are not a clear fit for the role that they have been assigned in the organization. It may also be due to the fact that they were not inducted properly into the process and structure.

Tie their job to their personal goals

This point goes hand in hand with understanding what motivates your employee. Every employee has a specific goal in their personal life that they are working towards. You can help them see how performing well in this job can help them inch closer towards their personal life goals.

Of all the measures given above, the simplest way to improve the performance of an underperforming employee is to listen attentively to the issues that they are facing at work, ask them questions and work with them in order to provide the knowledge and support that they need to succeed. When all else fails you can consider learning more about avalanche and how the techniques they use to raise employee morale.