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How to manage your underperforming employees

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Think of your business as a train comprising of multiple wagons, where one wagon can be technology, another accounting, and so on. In this image, managers are train drivers steering the locomotive, while the employees are the engine that is keeping everything in motion. However, that engine consists of many tiny parts. In order for everything to function properly, all those tiny parts have to do their job efficiently. If one of them fails, all of them fail. So, what can you do with the underperforming employees? Should you fire them or should you put in some effort to help them be more productive? The first should never be your go-to move. Here are some great tips for managing underperforming employees that should keep your engine running.

Identify the problem

In order to be able to notice the problem before it’s too late, you should be involved in your employees’ work all the time. This doesn’t mean that you have to control them, but overseeing them is a must. If you notice that an employee often fails to fulfill their obligations or if their behavior isn’t commendable, you should first assess whether they have enough potential to justify the effort you’ll invest to improve their performance.


When it comes to tackling the issue of under-performing staff members, employers often resort to complicated solutions, completely forgetting about the simplest route – conversation. If you notice an employee is falling behind his fellow workers, try to give that person valuable and clear feedback. Explain how the approach to work should be changed, the behaviors modified and set the time period in which you expect to see some of these changes. In most occasions, employees just need a push in the right direction.

Make it a two-way street

Of course, the managers should share their concerns with the employees, but the employees should also be given the opportunity to speak out. Perhaps there is a specific reason why they are not happy with their job or maybe they have personal issues. Whatever the reason, it is essential to get to the bottom of this problem if you want to fix it once and for all.

Find the solution together

Under-performance isn’t something that should be solved only on the managing side. Discussing the solutions with the employees in question will result in more concrete results. Make sure you find common ground, focus on positive possibilities, offer assistance, and establish a timeframe for improvement.

Monitor progress

After establishing a strategy for improvement, the employer should monitor further performance, and provide feedback and encouragement. Schedule regular meetings with the employees even if it seems like there are no more problems to be concerned with, and provide both positive and negative feedback. Also, the employees should feel free to share their impressions with you and tell you if there is still something that is stopping them from reaching their full productivity.

Reward improvement

If you notice that enough effort was put in improving their performance, you should motivate the employees to keep up the good work by appreciating their work and rewarding them for rethinking their approach to their job. Besides the verbal nod, you can reward your employees with more specific gifts, such as a surprise day off, theater tickets or gift cards. For example, EFTPOS gift cards are allowing you to personalize them for the employee in question.

Act if the under-performance continues

If, despite all your attempts to solve the problem and the underperformance continues, you should act accordingly and undertake all the necessary measures. This will let the employees see that you are serious and that such an attitude will no longer be tolerated.

If nothing works, cut the ties

The first formal action should be the last warning the employees can have. If the performance is still on a poor level, you should wait no longer to fire the underperforming employee. Such prolonged behavior can have a negative impact on the entire workforce and result in low morale and poor quality of work.

Discarding an under-performing employee straight away could be a terrible mistake, especially if you see that that person has a potential of being a better worker. It is always a better option to identify the root of this problem, address it with understanding and try to find a solution. If it works – great. If it fails – at least you will know that you didn’t get rid of an excellent worker without trying to flush out their potential.

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