14 Tips for How to Deal with Underperforming Employees

In today’s fast-paced business world, a company’s success hinges on the performance of its employees. As a supervisor, one of the challenges you may encounter is how to deal with underperforming employees. This can impact both the morale of the team as well as the overall productivity of the organization.

The approach to handling underperformance needs to be strategic and considerate. After all, your goal as a supervisor is not just to correct the problem but to inspire the employee to achieve their full potential. In this guide, you’ll find tips to help you deal with an underperforming employee and transform the situation.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the dynamics of your workplace, Dr. Buzz Mingin can help. Contact Dr. Buzz today for your free leadership consultation to learn more about his strategies for organizational change.

1. Recognize & Identify the Problem

The first step in addressing underperformance is acknowledging that there is an issue. This step involves observation and analysis of the underperforming employee. Monitor this team member’s output, engagement, and behaviors, comparing them with the expected performance standards.

While doing this, it’s essential to remain objective and avoid making assumptions or judgments. Once you have concrete evidence of performance issues, focus on pinpointing the specific areas where improvement is needed.

2. Identify Potential Obstacles to Their Performance

After recognizing the problem, take some time to understand the possible reasons behind the underperformance. Were the job expectations clear? Could there have been a miscommunication?

Additionally, it’s critical to recognize that sometimes external factors may be the root cause. For instance, the employee might be facing issues in their personal life, lack the necessary training, or be unclear on the objectives. Understanding these obstacles not only humanizes the approach but also helps in arriving at an effective solution for sustainable success.

3. Talk with the Employee or Employees

Now it’s time to communicate with the employee. Initiate a one-on-one conversation in a private and neutral setting. This conversation should be respectful, constructive, and solution-oriented.

Start by explaining the reason for the meeting and the poor performance issues you have observed. Listen carefully and give the employee an opportunity to share their side of the story. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to open up about any challenges they might be facing.

Through this dialogue, aim to understand their perspective and assure them that you are there to support them in improving their performance.

4. Talk with a Previous Supervisor or Other Coworkers

Gaining additional insights can help in understanding the scope of the issue. With discretion and maintaining confidentiality, consider speaking with a previous supervisor or colleagues who have closely worked with the underperforming employee.

This historical context can help determine whether employee underperformance is a new development or has been a recurring issue. Be careful to avoid gossip or judgment – instead, keep the focus on gathering information that can help you support the employee more effectively.

5. Develop a Plan of Action Together

Having gathered insights from the employee and others, it’s now time to create a plan of action with clear performance goals. It is crucial to involve the employee in this process, as this instills a sense of partnership in addressing the issue.

Be sure to define clear objectives, set timelines, and allocate resources where needed. Ensure that the plan is mutually agreed upon, and encourage the underperforming employee to give input, as this will make them more committed to the plan.

6. Instill a Sense of Ownership of the Solution in the Employee

For action plans to be successful, underperforming employees must take ownership and feel connected to the solution process. Encourage them to see the plan as their pathway to success rather than something imposed upon them.

Let them know that their progress will have a positive impact not just on their career but also on the team and the organization. Empower them to make decisions within the plan and be proactive in seeking support if needed.

7. Reiterate & Reinforce Job Expectations

As the employee begins to work on the action plan, it’s crucial to reinforce the importance of meeting job expectations and performance goals. Clearly communicate what is expected and how this aligns with the organization’s goals.

Regularly touch base with the employee to provide feedback, recognize improvements and discuss areas that still need work. This continual reinforcement helps keep the employee focused and aligned with what they need to achieve.

8. Follow Up Regularly on Progress

Regular follow-ups are instrumental in ensuring that the employee stays on track with the action plan. Set a schedule for these check-ins, be it weekly or bi-weekly, and stick to it. During each one-on-one meeting, discuss the progress made, address any new challenges, and adjust the action plan if necessary.

Follow-ups should not be viewed as a formality but as an opportunity for real, constructive dialogue. It is through these discussions that you can help guide the employee to consistent improvement.

9. Recognize Improvements & Progress

Acknowledgment can be a powerful motivator for underperforming employees. As the employee works through the action plan, be sure to recognize and celebrate the improvements and progress they make, no matter how small.

A simple word of appreciation or a shout-out in a team meeting can go a long way in boosting the employee’s morale and motivation. This positive reinforcement encourages continued effort and can often be the fuel that drives transformational change in an employee’s performance.

10. Document the Entire Process

It is crucial to keep a record of the entire process, from the initial identification of the problem to the development and execution of the action plan. Documentation can include:

  • Notes from meetings
  • Agreed-upon action items
  • Progress reports
  • Any other communications related to the employee’s performance

This serves several purposes – it keeps both parties accountable, provides a reference for future discussions, and, in the case of continued underperformance despite efforts, provides a basis for further action that may need to be taken.

Be transparent with the employee about this documentation, and ensure it is stored securely and confidentially so that you can regularly monitor your progress.

11. Ensure a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance plays a significant role in why some employees underperform. Too often, underperformance can be a symptom of burnout resulting from overwork and stress. As a supervisor, you’re in a position to advocate for a healthy work/life balance.

Encourage your employees to take breaks, avoid overloading them with tasks, and respect their time off. A well-rested and balanced employee is more likely to be productive and engaged in their work.

12. Practice a Coaching Approach

Instead of taking a directive approach, try adopting a coaching style of leadership. You can try asking open-ended questions, listening actively, and helping the employee come to their conclusions about performance improvements.

A coaching approach (instead of a coercive or controlling approach) empowers employees, increases their confidence, and often leads to more sustainable improvements in performance.

13. Understand When to Escalate

Despite your best efforts, there may be times when an employee’s performance does not improve. In such cases, it may be necessary to escalate the situation in hopes of finding a suitable solution.

Escalation Doesn’t Mean Termination

Escalation could involve bringing the issue to the attention of upper management, human resources, or seeking assistance from a professional business wellness consultant.

The goal is still to find a solution to the performance problem, not to punish the employee. In some cases, the employee may need additional resources, training, or support that you cannot provide alone.

14. Get Outside Help

Don’t hesitate to seek external help if needed. A professional business wellness consultant or an organizational psychologist can provide fresh insights, proven strategies, and tailored training to improve workplace performance.

They can help you identify systemic issues that may be affecting employee performance and provide tools to create a more productive and positive work environment. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of failure but a step toward creating a healthier and more effective workplace.

Dr. Buzz Mingin Transforms Leaders & Organizations

In the realm of leadership and organizational development, Dr. Buzz Mingin stands as a transformative force. By combining psychological insight with practical strategies, he helps leaders unlock their full potential and steer their organizations toward unparalleled success.

Whether you’re struggling with an underperforming employee or other performance problems, Dr. Buzz can lend his expertise to help transform the situation.

His coaching programs can help identify the underlying issues that are hindering organizational growth and then develop craft tailor-made solutions. His unique and effective approach has earned him recognition and accolades among his peers and clients alike.

Contact Dr. Buzz For Executive Leadership Coaching Today

Whether you’re looking to hone your leadership capabilities, boost your team’s performance, or instigate organizational transformation, Dr. Buzz Mingin is the executive coach you need. To see for yourself, schedule your free discovery call with Dr. Buzz Mingin today.

By partnering with Dr. Buzz, you’re not just receiving coaching; you’re embarking on a journey of personal and professional development that will have lasting positive effects on your career and organization.

Don’t let challenges stifle your potential or the potential of your team. Contact Dr. Buzz today and take the first step toward becoming the influential and transformative leader you were meant to be.

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