Your team members are staring blankly into their monitor screens, wanting to speed up the clock so they can immediately head on their way home. Mountains of paperwork remain undone, and your men are badly lagging behind the company-wide metrics. Now you begin to question if it’s still a matter of technicality – or will.

Underperformance means going below the expected or desired outcome. In the workplace, underperforming employees can cause the business thousands of lost profit from missing the mark continuously

There are a number of probable causes for this issue such as hiring the wrong person, to lack of rewards and motivation. Whatever reason it may be, the employee must do something about it if he or she wants to stay.

As a manager, do you immediately show the door to your disappointing subordinates?

The answer should be no. You should never give up on the workforce easily. Understand that employee behavior is something that can be easily influenced and needs to be worked on together by both the individual and the management. This is where effective coaching comes to the rescue.

  1. Breathe Ice and Fire

“The single most important aspect of a people manager’s approach to managing underperformance is tough love –that is, being completely honest while delivering feedback with compassion and sensitivity.” –Karen Gately

What happens when you show your soft and caring side without being firm and assertive?

The employee will not have a sense of urgency, and will probably be mediocre after the discussion.

Now, what happens if you solely criticize him?

It may affect his morale and feel as if he’s humiliated.

As a manager, balance both worlds. Be honest about his performance and be straightforward on why change is needed. Afterwards, convince him that it’s a workable situation and that you’ll be guiding him along the way.

  1. Be an Open Jury

Before you hand out any disciplinary action or change in expectations, take the time to hear what your employee has to say. Does he have sufficient reason to justify the sudden drop in performance?

If yes, has he used the same reason before? Is there sufficient and appropriate evidence to believe his assertion?

As a manager, being considerate is key, but it should have limits.

  1. Sell the Benefits of Change

Positive reinforcement has the following benefits: improved workplace morale, increased sense of worth, and improved behavior.

Being a manager, it’s important to address all questions leading to rewarding improved performance:

  •    Clarity: What is expected of you? (e.g., number of units to be produced or delivered, and quality of such)
  •    Strategy: Why is it important? (e.g., financial statement impacts, quantitative analyses, profitability indices)
  •    Performance Review: What is the present situation?
  •    Collaboration: What can we do about it?
  •    Rewarding: What’s in it for you? (e.g., job security, recognition, job appraisal, financial rewards, etc.)
  1. Identify and Resolve Company-Wide Concerns

It’s important to make note of an underperforming employee’s concerns and identify if the same concerns burden other employees.

Also, a manager should continuously re-evaluate workload levels to find out if it’s too clubbing or suffocating for employees to bear.

For instance, you can summon or participate in a meeting of different department heads to identify and resolve issues. Such meeting gives utmost freedom to each participant to air his department’s side.

  1. Track Progress and Don’t Be Hesitant in Giving Praises

What you’re trying to build after coaching an underperforming employee are good habits. He should be able to demonstrate new learned skills/attitudes on a consistent basis.

However, beware of mediocrity. Some tend to display the positive change in a short period, only to fall back to the level which he needed intervention.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to give credit where credit’s due. It’s free. A simple verbal recognition or pat in the back is the cheapest, yet most effective form of motivating employees.

Do you know other ways to manage underperforming employees? Please comment below.


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