6 Tips to Handle Underperforming Employees

October 10, 2017 Pete Jansons

If you’re a manager for long enough, chances are you’ll encounter an employee whose performance isn’t up to par. While it might feel easier to ignore the problem and hope it goes away, it is more likely that the problem will only get worse. An underperforming employee can have a negative domino effect on the rest of the company, as other employees are forced to pick up the slack. This can lead to burnout and feelings of resentment, resulting in lower morale and possibly even turnover.

Use the following tips to handle an underperforming employee.

Timing is everything. Try not to reprimand an employee in the heat of the moment, when you’re more likely to say something you later regret. Once you’ve given yourself time to cool off, schedule a one-on-one meeting with the employee. Be ready to have a two-way conversation that allows for your employee to explain his or her side of the situation.

Focus on facts. Getting negative feedback is never easy, and it’s can be hard not to take it personally. To help avoid this, make sure you focus on facts, giving clear examples of times when the employee failed to meet the expectations of the job. Explain how these behaviors affect not just the rest of the team but the employee’s own future at the company - including promotional opportunities, recognition, bonuses and job security.

Get to the root of the issue. Never assume you know what’s causing an employee’s poor performance. Try to find out the root of the issue. Perhaps the employee is overwhelmed by his or her workload. Or maybe the employee doesn’t feel challenged enough. Perhaps your employee is simply unclear on his or her role and the expectations around it. Then again, the issue could also be personal. Only once you know what the real issue is will you be able to find a solution and move forward.

Work on a solution together. Don’t simply say, “Here’s how we’re going to fix this,” and dictate a solution. Work with your employee to come up with a solution together. Giving your employee a chance to take ownership of the situation is empowering and provides extra motivation to improve. As you work on a solution, outline clear objectives and the steps that will be taken to meet those objectives. See if the employee needs extra training or resources that would help him or her perform better.

Follow up. Once you’ve come up with a plan, make sure you follow up regularly (every couple of weeks) to assess the employee’s progress and address any challenges that have come up.

Recognize and reward improvement. If the employee is improving, recognize it. Whether it’s in the form of a Starbucks gift card or a handwritten note to say “job well done.” Showing that you see and appreciate their hard work will motivate them to keep improving.

Unfortunately, not every underperforming employee is motivated to improve. If you’ve exhausted every effort to “save” your employee, it may be time to let the employee go. Holding onto an underachieving employees could have a toxic effect on the rest of the business.

Don’t let good employees get away. Check out 6 Ways to Stop Employee Turnover In Its Tracks.

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