Underperforming Employees

Managers and coworkers find dealing with an underperformer to be one of the most sensitive and frustrating exercises in the workplace. While many managers simply opt for disciplinary action, or in worse cases, giving immediate notice to an underperformer, this practice is too reactionary. After all, like many people, an underperforming employee usually has the potential to turn their performance around. The trick is to understand what inhibits their performance.

Tactics to Deal with Underperforming Employees

The modern corporate world is all about results. Businesses are judged on how much revenue and profits they generate during their fiscal year. Similarly, employees are judged on their productivity and performance during that same period. Most businesses use performance appraisals to determine if an employee should be rewarded or considered for an action plan. While most employees will lend their best efforts to the job at hand, there may always be one or two who struggle to perform. While this might be due to any number of reasons, the following tactics can help you deal more constructively with such employees:

  1. Identify Areas Where You Can Improve
  2. Be Up Front and Clear About Performance
  3. Map Out a Performance Improvement Roadmap
  4. Incentivize Performance and Employee Growth

Let’s take a closer look at these below.

Identify Areas Where You Can Improve

You will need to act swiftly when an employee’s performance is not up to par. The first step is to understand the problem from all angles. Before bringing the matter up with the underperforming employee, take a more studied approach.

Identify the factors that contribute to an employee’s performance (or in this case, under-performance). Classify them into factors driven by employees and by the employer. When an employee is not performing well, it is not always the employee’s fault entirely. There could be a number of contributing employer-driven factors at play, such as:

  • Not having a clear understanding of job expectations.
  • A lack of motivation.
  • Personal or professional challenges.

All of the above can be mitigated or eliminated by a manager or mentor. Make sure you explore all avenues to make sure you aren’t contributing to an employee not performing well.

Be Up Front and Clear About Performance

When you discover an employee’s performance is not up to company standards, you need to open a clear and direct channel of communication with them right away. When dealing with performance problems, it is always best to do so in an open and transparent manner. Once you have assessed all possible factors, you need to make it clear to the employee what the issue is, where you believe it has originated, and how you intend to cooperatively work to address it.

When you wait too long to start communicating, it can become difficult to track and mitigate the issue. In case you do end up firing your employee, having this communication on record is prudent for legal reasons. Most importantly, however, clear communication extends to the employee a fair chance at improving his or her performance. An employee should fairly understand the gravity of the situation as well as your perception and plan going forward.

Hammer Out a Performance Improvement Roadmap

Many managers opt for a reactionary tone when dealing with employees manifesting performance issues. The correct approach should be constructive, however. Establishing a plan with mutual responsibilities offers support to the employee as well as an opportunity to grow. A roadmap that comes with regular milestones and follow-ups can be the best step towards a successful outcome. Of course, you must be careful to set reasonable goals. These work better to empower workers with performance issues and help them learn the necessary habits and skills to perform at peak efficiency.

Incentivize Performance and Employee Growth

Incentivizing progress and rewarding growth is essential once an employee begins to follow a performance correction roadmap. And while clearly communicating areas of improvement and flaws in workplace habits is important, so is empowering your employees when they make noticeable efforts to improve themselves. Understand what your employee’s professional and personal goals are. Many times, employees that are not performing well have simply lost sight of the larger company goal. Remind them, and reward them when they make concrete efforts to achieve it.

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