12 ways to deal with an underperforming team member

Published on : 25th November 2021

12 ways to deal with an underperforming team member

If some of your team aren't performing at their best, it's not good for them, can bring down morale and affect the performance of your team. It's important and necessary to find a solution to the issue.

Here we look at proven methods to effectively deal with an underperforming employee.

Ensure they know what's expected of them.

Every employee should have goals, which need to be reasonable, accepted by them and documented. The goals should be SMART (specific, measured, achievable, realistic and time-bounded.) Any employee needs to know what he or she is doing will fit into the bigger picture of the organisation's goals and strategic objectives, to prove purpose and motivation.

Before any review meeting, ensure you know in what areas they are underperforming and get supporting evidence if necessary from other team members. One or two mistakes can, of course, be expected and forgiven but consistent underperformance must be confronted. You need to be very specific about the areas of underperformance with details of how and when the underperformance occurred.

Ensure they have had adequate training and support.

No employee can perform without the expected training to carry out the role. Also, check that the performance of other departments is not affecting the performance of your employee. Employees also need management support and you need to ensure you played your part in supporting the employee with regular meetings, reviews and that they have the tools for success.

Confront poor performance swiftly

You need to address performance issues as soon as they become apparent. Leaving them will send the wrong message and will affect other members of the team negatively.

Get acceptance of poor performance

In any review where poor performance is raised, you need to establish the difference between the performance being achieved and that expected and the individual needs to acknowledge the gap.

This is one of the most important areas in managing poor performance as if the person does not realise or agree they are underperforming, it can be very difficult to address. This is where individual goals and objectives are paramount. If non have been set, now is the time to put them in place as a marker for future performance and reviews.

Establish any external factors

Everyone is exposed to external influences. From moving house to ill relatives, poor physical or mental health, you need to gently probe for if any are in play here.

Be positive - look for solutions

Make sure any review is not emotional and look like they are being sabotaged. Stick to the facts and make it clear you are here to support them in a positive way, looking for that 'win-win' outcome. To reinforce this, ask them about management. How do they feel they have been managed, what could you do better? This will often uncover reasons why they think performance has been below par, proves you are listening to them and gives the opportunity to provide the right support going forward.

Establish a plan

It is useful to establish a short term plan. These could include specific goals to be achieved by certain times. Again, it is essential that the person agrees to the goals and timescale and are formulated together, not just a dictate. Also, arrange and diarise reviews going forward and get their agreement.

Review frequently

It is beneficial to review progress frequently, which needs to ensure they have the training and support needed to fulfil the role and what is being asked of them.

Ensure that you make a point of recognising improvement and congratulating employees when rewarding progress. A surefire method to alienate your employees is to ask for improvements, and never show appreciation for the work done to date.

People like to be appreciated and an acknowledgement of improved performance will motivate the person to continue that behaviour. Often a simple mention of a thank you or a well done goes a long way.

Act on continued underperformance

If underperformance continues, you should address this behaviour as soon as you can. This ensures your underperforming employee knows you are serious, and it won't be tolerated.

Ultimately - Be prepared to let them go

This is never ideal and should always be treated as a last resort, but ultimately you may have to accept that you have not got a good fit between the individual, the role and the organisation. There may be many reasons for this, but ultimately, after a review and extended time and support to allow for improvement, if it is not forthcoming, it may be time to let them go.

At this time it is essential that everything is documented along the way and you will still need to be aware of their legal rights and your responsibilities as an employer. However, frequently an employee may leave of their own accord during the process as it can crystalise fundamental differences that cannot be overcome.

In Summary

No manager wants to have to deal with performance problems, however, it is important as a leader that you learn to deal with an underperforming employee in effective ways, that are beneficial to you and the person.

I trust that these 12 methods above help you to be better equipped to deal with performance issues in a professional and positive way.