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Managing Underperformance – Part 2 – Next steps
By Sonya Buck, Australia

One of the issues employers face in the workplace is staff underperformance and dealing with this issue is unavoidable.

Once you’ve identified you have the correct workplace job descriptions and expectations, training, targets and goals and general best practices in place, you can be confident you have fulfilled your responsibilities before addressing these issues.

Should you need to deal with underperformance, you should consider:

Analysing the problem
Before you attend to the issue with an individual employee consider how serious the problem is, how long the problem has existed, and how wide the gap is between what is expected and what is being delivered.

Schedule a meeting
The next step is to schedule a meeting with the employee.  Give them time to prepare for the meeting and ensure they know what it’s about and that they are able to bring along someone with them as support if they wish.

During the meeting
You’ll need to communicate what the problem is, why it is a problem and how it impacts the workplace.  Also you should communicate the outcomes you wish to achieve from the meeting.

Ensure you communicate it in a non-personal way.  For example saying “I hate the way you are late every month with the sales statistics” is inappropriate and instead you may try “I’m concerned after my feedback that the sales statistics continue to be late each month”

It is important to remember this meeting is a two way discussion and you should be giving the employee the opportunity to provide an explanation for the problem.

Repeat back what the employee has told you to clarify and aim to jointly devise a solution to the problem.

Some employees will take any criticism badly and ensure you stay calm and keep the discussion on track.

Offer assistance, such as further training, mentoring, flexible work practices or redefining roles and expectations, if appropriate.

When you arrive at a solution create an action plan which includes milestones to measure improvement. This will include setting timeline for the expectation of improvement.  Ensure this is realistic and gives the employee adequate time to address the issue.  Set a date for the next meeting to discuss.

Sometimes an employee’s performance is suffering due to employee’s personal circumstances and in this instance you should refer the employee to professional help or counselling.  

After the meeting
As the Manager ensure you document the discussions from the meeting, just in case further action is required or the issue escalates in the future.

Give encouragement and or feedback to the employee during the period of time before the next meeting.

There is no doubt addressing employee underperformance can be time consuming, but you should consider the investment in recruiting and training you have made on the employee to date.  You should also think about the impact on other staff should they be demotivated by this employee’s attitude or work performance if they are ‘picking up the slack’ for this employee on a daily basis. 

In many cases continually monitoring employee performance and providing feedback and training can ensure you minimise underperformance issues.

To read part 1 of this article – Click here Managing Underperformance – Part 1 – Take a Step Back