Underperformance and inefficiency in the workplace will prevent your business from reaching its full potential and should be addressed immediately.

Here are a few tips on how to identify underperformance and how to deal with it the right way.

A company cannot survive if its employees do not contribute to its success. Individual performance is bound to have ups and downs.

Good managers should be able to spot underperformance and address and correct it.

While dealing with underperforming employees can be difficult, leaving them unaddressed can harm morale and company culture and set a poor example for others.

What is underperformance? How to identify it?

Underperformance occurs when an employee performs their duties below the required level that has been established and is expected of them.

The consequences of underperformance are obvious, but it can be challenging to pinpoint precisely where the problem is within the organization.

Not meeting deadlines or targets, having bad reviews from clients, or making fewer sales are always signs that something isn’t going as planned.

The manager should monitor employee outputs and compare them against previous months or against the results of other team members. Having KPIs or SMART goals within the business will give you a better understanding of an employee’s individual performance.

It is crucial to address employee underperformance as soon as you identify it.

Causes of underperformance

Some of the most common causes of underperformance at the workplace are:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Excessive workload
  • Lack of skills
  • Personal issues
  • Bad communication
  • Capability
  • Job dissatisfaction

In most cases, employee underperformance isn’t a conscious choice, and it doesn’t always imply incompetence.

However, sometimes, underperformance can be linked with job dissatisfaction or decreased loyalty towards the organization. For more tips on how to increase employee satisfaction, you should check our 5 tips to improve employee loyalty. 

How to deal with employee underperformance

Underperformance is a problem that affects employees at all levels, and each case is different. Managing these circumstances consistently can keep your team’s output from being impacted.

Macromanagement is, in most cases the best approach. However, when dealing with performance issues, it is strongly advised that you intervene as soon as you detect an employee performing poorly.

Begin by writing down specific examples of how their work has suffered and failed to meet expectations and any problematic habits you’ve seen. Then approach the employee and set up a private, one-on-one meeting to discuss the matter and better understand their viewpoint.

Explain to the employee that your goal is not to argue or blame him, but to collaborate to uncover the reason for his poor performance. Work together with the employee to find solutions that benefit both him and the organization.

Understanding the employee’s perspective

It’s a common mistake to assume you already know the reasons behind an employee’s poor performance. You must set the correct tone for the meeting and ask the right questions in order to discover the actual causes.

Begin the discussion by outlining concrete examples of the employee’s poor performance and how it impacts the rest of the team and the organization.

Here are some examples of questions that can help you learn more about how the employee sees the situation:

  • Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?
  • Are you satisfied with our company?
  • What’s your opinion on your work targets and deadlines? Do you consider them to be unrealistic?
  • Do you think you don’t have enough time to fulfill your tasks?
  • Is there anything about your position that concerns you? Are you dissatisfied with any of your tasks?
  • Do you understand how your work contributes to the company’s value and who benefits from it?
  • How would you describe my management style? Do you feel pressured in any way?
  • Is there anything troubling you? Do you think there are external factors that affect your performance at work?

Listen carefully to the employee’s comments and ask clarifying questions to understand and show your interest fully.

Suppose you notice during the discussion that the employee is not satisfied with his daily tasks and general job duties or doesn’t fit within the organizational culture. In that case, you should consider improving your employee vetting process.

Personal issues can affect one’s performance at the job; if that’s the case, you should propose taking some time off to deal with them.

Dealing with underperformance: redefining goals

Following an examination of the employee’s challenges and causes of underperformance, you can collaborate in developing an action plan to work toward a resolution.

You can propose solutions to the problem and encourage the employee to set goals and make recommendations.

Make sure that you and the employee are on the same page and that he genuinely comprehends what is expected from him inside the organization.

Monitoring progress

Fixing an underperformance scenario may require more than one talk, and you must allow the individual time to improve.

Set up daily or weekly meetings to track the employee’s progress and to stimulate further development.

Allow plenty of opportunities for the employee to express how their work ethic is evolving and what is still difficult for them.

These check-ins hold the employee accountable and allow you to emphasize performance goals and provide any necessary training and support. You will also demonstrate to the individual that you want to see them succeed.


It is critical to provide precise and constructive feedback to an employee who is attempting to improve their performance. It will allow them to track their progress and identify areas that still require improvement.

When an employee’s performance reaches an acceptable level, commend them and discuss how to sustain this level of performance. Recognition goes a long way in building confidence in an employee’s abilities and motivates them to continue working on the pattern of improvement.

When performance doesn’t improve

There are specific scenarios where the employee isn’t able or doesn’t want to improve his performance. This can affect the team morale and the work environment. At this point, you can’t allow underperformance to continue without repercussions, and your two options are:

  • Reassignment
  • Termination

If you believe the employee cannot meet your expectations, you might try to reassign him to a new role or let him go. While firing him isn’t ideal, it may be the best option for everyone concerned.

The employee might be a better fit for other roles in your organization, or he could perform a less demanding job where he can learn more and develop his skill set. In this case, we propose that you explore reassignment.


Underperformance may cripple a business’s growth potential. It is best to address poor performance as soon as you identify it.

Work together with the employee to identify the reasons behind his lack of performance. Try to view the situation from his point of view.

Set up new goals, monitor his progress over time, and help him by providing feedback.

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