6 Ways To Manage Under Performance

Over recent months we have explored the topic of underperformance from several angles such as, are we really looking at underperformance or an attitude issue?, as well as knowing how to spot the early signs of underperformance.

The question is when you know you are dealing with underperformance and not attitude, and you have observed consistent signs of its presence; what do you do?

How do you deal with a performance issue and get your team member back on track?  Here are 6 suggestions we consistently recommend to our clients that produce results.

Give Specific Behavioural Based Feedback



The starting point is to give specific behavioural feedback so that your team member is aware that their performance is below expectation.

It can be easy to assume that they know this themselves. While some employees will be aware of their behaviour, unfortunately, others won’t, and you will need to communicate this clearly.

When you do this, take the opportunity to re-iterate company expectations. In my experience, one of the keys to success in managing situations like this is to follow up your feedback by checking the employees understanding.

Unless a person describes their understanding of the situation, what’s expected, what they need to improve on and the impact of not achieving the required standards, they really don’t get the gravitas of the situation.


Identify Possible Causes

To know how best to support a team member seek to understand the underlying cause of their poor performance by exploring the following areas;

  • What does your team member understand about the company expectations of them?
  • What training has been provided to ensure they can carry out their role fully?
  • What is their workload like, is it too high and overwhelming or too light and not challenging enough?

What external factors

[often personal] might you need to be aware of. Remember personal health issues or that of a loved one or close family member can have a significant impact on performance.

It is also worth exploring the role. Is this the same role that your team member was employed for, or have they arrived in this job because of organisational change. Sometimes people can feel like a square peg in a round hole as a result of too much change, and their performance suffers.

Understand What Motivates Your Team Member



It’s important to take time to learn what motivates your team member, by asking them ‘what is important to them about their role, career, and how they are performing?’

Then, listen …and I mean really listen.

When you ask this kind of question, you are likely to learn more about an individual than you realise provided you give them time to answer and you listen to their response. The key to success in re-engaging and motivating the individual is to help them see a link between what is being asked of them and what is important to them.

This is also an opportunity to explore and listen to any concerns they may have about their role that they believe is impacting their ability to perform as expected.

It is possible that genuine concerns are raised which you may need to validate with other team members and address if required.

Know what motivates the individual and what you can tap into to re-engage them.


Create an Action Plan

Having invested the time in exploring the causes, listening to concerns or issues you will have an idea about the kind of action plan you feel is required, is it an informal or formal plan?

Depending on the answer to this and how engaged the employee is in addressing their underperformance, you may decide to involve them in co-creating an action plan.

Or choose a direct approach and connect what you are asking of them to their personal motivations as previously mentioned.

The latter is referred to as a Performance Improvement Plan by many organisations.Usually, it is the last thing an employee wants to happen so where you can start with an informal plan and move to a formal approach if you see improvements are not happening, or not fast enough, is a better option.


Provide Support and Follow Up



This is often an area that when not actioned fully, leads to complications later in the management of underperformance.

Plan when you will follow up with your team member, agree on dates and stick to them. Also, you must decide how the employee will be measured and what monitoring will be put in place.

If someone has been asked to complete a task by a specific date, be sure that he or she has accomplished it and ensure he or she has the right knowledge, skills, and resources to achieve it.


Recognise and reward improvement

There is no faster way to further demotivate a team member who demonstrates improvement and then forget to acknowledge, recognise, and reward their progress. Make it important to notice
behavioural changes and re-enforce them with motivational feedback.


What Next?

Take time to review each member of your team and check that their performance is on track. Ask yourself, who have you had some of those niggling doubts abouts. Have you made the person aware of what your concerns are?

If not take action and start by sharing your feedback making sure you have specific examples and follow the process outlined above.


Until next time,

Julia Carter