8 Ways Managers Should Deal with Underperforming Staff 

Every manager needs to ensure that their team is performing their best. However, there would be times when a member or two may perform below the company’s acceptable standard.

If such a situation arises, it’s essential to do something about it instead of waiting and hoping that the issue will go away. Doing nothing may even make the situation worse.

Now, what are the steps you should take?     

What is your basis for the underperformance?

It’s your duty as a manager to know what you require from each of your subordinates. This will help you determine if a particular team member is underperforming.  Start by taking a look at their job description and also their personal profile.   

Keep the first meeting informal when presenting your feedback

It’s best to figure out the source of the underperformance during this meeting. Is the team member:

  • Overworked?
  • Facing prioritisation difficulties?
  • In need of further training?
  • Dealing with some personal issues or problems?

If it’s your first time to address the performance issue, better keep the meeting as informal as possible. Use this opportunity to assess the situation, gather information while offering guidance and support.

Identify the problem, and the person concerned should know about it

Assure the concerned staff that the meeting is not a formal one. Since it’s an informal one, there’s no need to provide notice or have a representative aboard. 

Give the staff member some time to feel comfortable with the goals you’re trying to accomplish.  By understanding the problem together, the two of you may come up with a possible solution or plan of action.  

Make your expectations known and set a timetable.

Whilst the meeting is still in the informal stage, your subordinate must understand that they will need to show signs of improvement in the coming days or weeks.

Even if the proceedings are informal, you need to make notes. If possible, provide the team member with a written letter detailing what was discussed and the agreed action to take.     

According to this blog, team members may be underperforming because they lacked the necessary training. If this is the case, you may need to assign the employee with a co-worker who can help them. You can also bring in an outside trainer to assist your group.     

Monitor the employee’s performance and note any improvement

You’ll spend some time monitoring the concerned member’s performance. If it improves, then the problem is solved. However, if the employee doesn’t improve or has made improvements but reverts back to the old performance level, you need to have another meeting. 

Go back to your previous discussions, including the help and support they received. It’s also possible that the reasons for the underperformance are different from the initial meeting.  For instance, during the first conversation, the employee revealed that they are having some medical problem.   

Find out what motivates and offer feedback based on performance

As a manager, it’s ideal to know:

Know all your members

Their aspirations and long-term goals

Their motivations

It’s customary in office settings to have personality clashes. Understandably, you may not enjoy spending time with some team members. However, your personal bias shouldn’t affect your performance review. Focus on evaluating their work and if they are reaching their assigned targets and goals. Remember, it’s essential to create an environment where every member is motivated to work and contribute.         

Reward or file formal procedures based on the outcome

Rewarding team members who made substantial improvement in their job or attitude is an excellent morale booster.  They will also strive to meet your expectations while taking pride in their work. 

However, if there have been no work improvements despite several meetings, it may be time to conduct formal proceedings where the employee will:

Received a written invitation to attend the hearing

Given the right to be accompanied by another person

Received warnings or sanctions if appropriate

Deal with the situation immediately

Managers need to handle underperformance cases immediately and efficiently. It will not help the team and organisation if the matter drags on. Make sure to set a timeline and stick to it.

You should also be aware of how your organisation deals with underperformance issues. Use the past cases as a basis but make sure that the rulings are applied consistently.     


Your team works as one, and every member is performing their duties well. However, there are times when a member or two may lag behind their colleagues. This will require immediate attention and discover the reasons behind their underperformance. It’s best to keep the first meeting informal to keep the concerned employee at ease. During your talks, both parties must understand the expected responsibilities and goals. It’s also the manager’s responsibility to provide any needed resource and training to assist the employees in achieving their goals. Monitoring and providing feedback is also essential since improvement may mean rewards or a formal hearing if the underperformance continues.            

Author bio: Stacey Astons

Photo credits: Pixabay 

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