How to Manage Underperforming Employees

September 3, 20212:39 pm780 views
How to Manage Underperforming Employees
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‘One rotten apple spoils the rest,’ a proverb says. In the workplace, an underperforming employee can be the bad apple that affects the whole team and even the company if left unaddressed. HR professionals should master the art of managing employees who inhibit poor ethics and low productivity, such that they can turn rotten into right. Here’s what you need to know about managing underperforming employees.

‘Underperformance’ indicators 

The general reason for employee underperformance is not the absence of competence, but rather a lack of emotional intelligence, empathy, or motivation.. There are many other reasons an employee’s performance might not be meeting expectations. These include:

  • Low workplace happiness or a toxic working environment
  • Interpersonal conflicts inside the team or with management 
  • Uncertainty about expectations, norms, regulations, and workplace policies
  • Personal dissatisfaction or a lack of job fulfillment
  • A mismatch between the employee’s abilities and the demands of their job.
  • Lack of performance-related feedback

If the underperforming employee is still in probation or training period, this can be an indicator for their supervisor that they are unlikely to succeed in the long run, either due to lack of competence or motivation in the position. Meanwhile, if tenured employees showcase an underperformance like never before, HR leaders need to review the core reason behind such a turn of quality and identify what can be done about it.

Pay attention to your own management behavior

Before putting the blame on underperforming employees, it is best to reflect on your management behavior. Here are a few reasons why employees might be underperforming due to your management issue. 

  • Little to no frequent performance management to evaluate employee satisfaction.
  • Putting aside employee wellbeing solely for achieving material targets.
  • Employees are not trusted or given the freedom to pursue their job interests.
  • Not providing constructive criticism, thus fostering an atmosphere of ‘one way command’.
  • Setting unrealistic objectives, causing employees to fall short from the beginning.

If the points above turn out to be the root of underperformance, then you need to revamp your management style. Allow employees to ask or clarify questions whenever possible so they can better grasp your expectations and what the company expects from them. Simultaneously, keep an eye on how you engage. A negative reaction or body language may discourage employees from asking for the assistance they need to complete their job effectively.

Read Also: Transparency in the Workplace: Why It Matters

Set clear expectation and provide solutions

New employees may arrive at work with little comprehension of what is expected of them. This can get them to be underperforming employees later on. Supervisors may have extra expectations of what new hires should be doing that differs from initial job objectives. This habit of not being transparent upfront will get new employees to feel overwhelmed easily. In such circumstances, it is critical to establish a detailed description of the employee’s job tasks and responsibilities. 

Bear in mind that this should go both ways; your expectations should not be much higher than what employees are capable of. Employees also need to acknowledge that improvement is mandatory, as long as it is realistic for them. It also is wise to communicate this as early as possible, ideally during the interviewing process. Ensure that they have the necessary resources and time to complete their tasks. This might involve additional training sessions or specific onboarding days to specifically show new hires how tasks should be done.

Provide improvement plan 

Sometimes, it takes too long to wait until an annual or semi-annual performance review to provide criticism to underperforming employees. One way to overcome this gap is conducting periodic sharing sessions, with an objective assessment of the individual’s progress. Emphasize what employees are doing correctly, and then discuss weaknesses in a polite way, with an emphasis on solutions and/or behavioral adjustments that can lead to success.

Establish a performance improvement strategy, commonly referred to as a performance action plan to encourage underperforming employees to succeed. The plan should be properly presented and agreed upon with employees in order to acquire their commitment. This can be done by implementing SMART strategy, that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. This should also include a detailed timeline. Once the strategy is implemented, progress should be tracked, with regular feedback and assistance provided as needed. PIPs often last 30, 60, or 90 days, according to how long it would take to resolve the problem.

At some point, underperformance is attributed to poor leadership. Listening is the first step toward effective leadership because employees will be less anxious and more comfortable discussing their concerns when they are listened to and shown empathy. These strategies are intended to offer you the best possibility of effectively turning around your team’s underperformers and preparing them for success in their job. Despite your best efforts, changes do not always proceed as intended. Finally, employees may not be totally satisfied or competent in their roles. If this happens, you will need to take further actions such as making a formal recommendation to the HR manager or letting underperforming employees go. 

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