How to Manage Underperforming Employees

Every manager and business owner comes across underperforming employees at some point. Whether they are a new hire or one who has been employed for some time, knowing how to engage properly and motivate them to perform at a higher level is crucial. Employees who consistently perform well increase overall morale, improve company culture and help move your business forward.

But how can you take an underwhelming employee from slack to awesome?

1. Make sure they understand your expectations.

Sometimes, an employee may not even realize they are underperforming. Take a moment to sit down with your employee and talk about the expectations and responsibilities they have, so you are both on the same page.

Start by addressing the performance issues in a specific way, but do so with respect. Show them clear examples of what you’ve been seeing. Then, together, create an actionable roadmap towards success, starting with small goals to improve their confidence, and then move on to bigger responsibilities. Set performance goals that they can regularly check in with to make sure they are holding themselves accountable for their productivity, and have quarterly meetings to discuss those goals.

2. Check your management performance.

To understand what may be causing an employee to underperform, you need to examine the whole picture, which means reviewing your management skills.

Make sure that first, your employee has had all the necessary training to do their job well. Have they been properly onboarded? Have they developed undesirable habits due to a lack of training? An underperforming employee may need training to meet your expectations, which may need to be stated clearly.

Take a look at your relationship with your employee. How do you treat them on a daily basis? Do you regularly talk down to them? Do you reward good performance? Do you call them out openly when they don’t perform well? Do you often have negative body language? The approachability of a manager can either help or hinder an employee’s performance.

3. Find out what motivates them and use it!

Get to know your employees to understand better who they are, their values, and what motivates them. Knowing this information can help you better manage them on a personal level. Sometimes, even becoming a mentor to this employee can help them feel secure, ask for help when they need it, and feel supported in the workplace, all of which can lead to a better emotional state and a better performance. Talk to them about their long-term goals and aspirations, where they see their career headed in the next year, and how you can better support your employees to create a positive workplace culture. Developing a positive, professionally intimate relationship with your employees can help them perform as best they can because they’ll feel like they are working for more than just themselves. They will feel like they are working to benefit the company as a team.

Underperforming employees don’t always have to be let go immediately. Take some time to review these steps and watch as someone you thought was underwhelming becomes an asset to your team.

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