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If you are in a management position, there will be a point in your career when you will encounter an employee whose performance isn’t up to par – if you haven’t already.  Having an underperformer on your team can be frustrating.  If someone on your team isn’t performing at their best, it can bring down morale and affect the overall goals of your business.  But what can you do about an underperformer, and how can you turn around the problematic behavior?

Here are a few tips for handling an underperforming employee.

 

1. Be Prepared and Be Specific

Getting negative feedback is not easy.  Vague comments such as “We are not pleased with your performance” is not useful.  Gather as much information and evidence of the employee’s poor performance issues as you can.  This will help you and the employee focus on the facts, and he or she will have a better understanding of the areas of concern and how their behavior affects their position and the company’s success.

 

2. Avoid Emotional Confrontation

Timing is everything.  If you are upset with an employee’s performance, wait until you have given yourself time to cool off so you do not reprimand your underperformer in the heat of the moment.   Emotional arguments help no one.

Once you have given yourself time, schedule a one-on-one meeting with the employee, and create an open space where they have an opportunity to explain their side of the situation.

 

3. Get to the Root of the Problem

Most people do not wake up in the morning and give themselves a negative “pep talk” such as, “I would like to underperform today.  Why reach for the stars when I can do the bare minimum!”

There is usually an underlying problem to bad performance; therefore, you should never assume you know why the employee is performing poorly.  Perhaps the employee is overwhelmed with their workload, doesn’t feel challenged enough, is unclear about his or her role and the expectations that come with it, or it can be personal.  The best way to determine how to improve the situation is to uncover the cause.

 

4.  Make a Plan

Work on a solution together rather than dictating a solution. This gives the employee an opportunity to take ownership of the situation, which can empower them and provide extra motivation.

Make sure the plan is clear, concrete, and with quantitative results.

 

5. Follow-Up and Regularly Monitor Progress

Create a plan to regularly follow up on your employee’s progress.  This is a good way to address any challenges or concerns as they come up.

 

6. Praise and Reward Positive Change

If the employee is making progress, it is essential to acknowledge their efforts.  Let them know their hard work is not going unnoticed.

 

7. Be Ready to Let Them Go if Needed

Unfortunately, not every underperforming employee is motivated to improve.  If you feel you have exhausted every effort and are not seeing results, it may be time to let them go.  Although this is not ideal, one underperforming employee can create a domino effect on the rest of the workplace, and it is important to prevent this.