How to Handle an Under-Performing Employee

One of the toughest things a manager will deal with is understanding how to handle underperforming employees whose lack of motivation can impact business profitability. The single biggest problem facing businesses is the issues they have with managing the under-performance of their staff. CEOOnline research and experience with clients suggest that at least one in five employees are working below par. But although managers acknowledge the negative effect on the organization, its bottom line, staff morale and impact on customers and clients, they still continue to avoid tackling the tough issues with their staff.

How to Handle an Under-Performing Employee

This can be described as ‘strategic avoidance’, a long-term habitual approach, where many managers choose to sweep staff issues under the carpet rather than confront them. When talking about performance we are not talking about a performance appraisal system, but the way in which managers operate in setting and ensuring that required standards are met by their staff. Managing performance is a long-term process, not a single event.

Because many performance appraisal systems can be ineffective in motivating staff, it is the day-to-day skills and abilities of managers that will excite staff and motive performance.

It is remarkable how long many managers let staff performance issues go on before they actually do something constructive about addressing them. So one of the first things we recommend in addressing underperformance is for the manager to be incredibly clear on what their issues are and what they want. Many managers are not clear about what they want from their staff, so how can these under-performing employees read their minds and know what to expect if they are not clearly told?

Expectations need to be spelled out in specific terms and be consistent with the values and requirements of the organization. These values and standards need to be something that the organization is passionate about and believes in. Your employees need to understand that your standards are non-negotiable.

Try these 9 key steps from

  • Only raise one issue, problem or behavior at a time.

  • State the issue and keep it to 15 words or less, be laser clear, don’t lecture or blame the person, be hard on the issue and soft on the person.

  • Flick it back to the person as a question to get their engagement and buy-in through discussion.

  • Determine their acceptance or rejection of the issue and stick to your guns.

  • Help the person see how improved behavior will improve his or her situation and career.

  • Ask for ideas and commitment to solving the problem; don’t rush into premature solutions before exploring their feelings and emotions if these are getting in the way of solutions.

  • Offer your encouragement, help, and support.

  • Agree on an action plan with dates for progress reviews and discussions.

  • Make sure that you follow up.

 Dealing with an under-performing employee can be a very difficult task for most managers. In order to ensure your employees perform up to your standards, outline exactly what you expect from them.



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