How to manage underperformance in the workplace

Posted on 18 March '21 by , under people.

Employees are the key ingredient to the success of any business or organisation – but what should employers do if they aren’t performing as well as they should?

Underperformance can occur when an employee is failing to do their job properly, or is being disruptive within the workplace and impacting those around them. It may be a result of:

  • Goals and standards are unclear to the employee, so they are unaware of what’s expected of them
  • Lack of knowledge or skills for the job
  • The employee is unsure if they are meeting the requirements
  • Personal motivation or confidence are low
  • Personal issues (family stress, physical and/or mental health problems or drug/alcohol issues)
  • Low workplace morale/a poor work environment
  • Interpersonal differences or cultural misunderstandings
  • Workplace bullying

Underperforming by employees or poor performance at work can include:

  • Not performing duties, or not performing duties to the required standard
  • Displaying negative or disruptive behaviour in the workplace
  • Failing to comply with workplace policies, rules or procedures

The best way to address an issue like this and to ensure that all are performing to their best is to have regular meetings and discussions about performance and goals. Providing feedback and support can also assist people in meeting their responsibilities and performance expectations while working.

Benefits of addressing performance issues by taking a best practice approach to your business or organisation can include:

  • More harmonious and higher performing workplace
  • Maximising an employee’s individual performance
  • Building a culture in the workplace of continuous improvement of skills and further developing them
  • Higher levels of employee engagement and
  • Avoidance of legal disputes, such as unfair dismissal or bullying claims

Here’s a simple 5 step approach to handling underperformance:

  1. Identify the problem – note down behaviors, issues and occurrences in the workplace by the employee and why it is an issue that needs to be addressed.
  2. Assess and analyse – consider how serious the issue is, how long the problem has been in the workplace, and what the gap is between what’s expected and what’s being delivered.
  3. Meet with the employee – Inform the employee of what the meeting will be about beforehand so that they can prepare for it. Make sure that the meeting is held confidentially and in private.
  4. Agree on a solution – Work together with the employee to come up with solutions; employees and employers should also agree to a performance plan that records these solutions for employees to work towards.
  5. Monitor and Review – Once a plan is in place, make sure that the employee follows through. Ensure any training or support is provided that was promised, continue giving feedback and encouragement and plan a follow up meeting to see how they are travelling.