Strategies for Addressing Employee Underperformance

Jun 7, 2024 | Best Practice

photo of underperforming employee


In today’s fast-paced business world, keeping all team members performing at their best is key for success. However, underperformance can happen, and managers need to tackle it quickly and effectively. This article will explore various strategies for identifying, addressing, and improving underperformance, ensuring your team stays productive and engaged.


Understanding Underperformance

Underperformance occurs when an employee’s work or behaviour does not meet the set standards. This can show up as missed deadlines, poor quality of work, lack of initiative, or disruptive behaviour. Understanding why underperformance happens is the first step to fixing it.


The Importance of Addressing Underperformance

Ignoring underperformance can harm the team and the organisation. It can lower morale, reduce productivity, and affect work quality. It can also create a culture where poor performance is tolerated. Therefore, managers must address underperformance promptly and constructively.


Identifying Signs of Underperformance

Spotting underperformance early can prevent bigger problems later. Common signs include frequent mistakes, missed deadlines, lack of engagement, and negative attitudes. Managers should stay alert and use objective metrics to regularly assess performance.


Common Causes of Underperformance

Various factors can lead to underperformance. Knowing these can help in finding the right solutions.


Lack of Skills or Knowledge

Sometimes, employees may lack the necessary skills or knowledge to do their tasks well. This could be due to insufficient training or a mismatch between the job and the employee’s abilities.


Poor Work Environment

A toxic work environment can significantly affect an employee’s performance. Issues like poor management, lack of resources, and workplace conflicts can lower productivity and morale.


Personal Issues and Stress

Employees are human, and personal problems such as health issues, family problems, or financial stress can affect their work. Managers should be empathetic and provide support where possible.


Inadequate Motivation

Lack of motivation can come from unclear job roles, lack of recognition, or few career growth opportunities. Motivating employees needs a tailored approach that meets their individual needs and goals.


The Role of Effective Communication

Communication is key to solving underperformance. Clear, open, and honest communication helps in setting expectations, giving feedback, and solving issues constructively. One-to-One meetings are a great way to stay on top of things – highly recommended.


Setting Clear Expectations

From the start, employees should know their roles, responsibilities, and performance standards. This helps align their efforts with the organisation’s goals.


Regular Performance Reviews

Regular performance reviews give a structured chance to discuss an employee’s performance, acknowledge achievements, and identify areas for improvement. These reviews should be constructive and focused on development.


Providing Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is essential for improvement. Managers should focus on specific behaviours and outcomes, give actionable advice, and support employees in making the needed changes.


Developing Performance Improvement Plans

When underperformance is identified, a structured performance improvement plan (PIP) can help address the issues systematically.


Creating SMART Objectives

SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) provide clear direction and measurable outcomes. They help employees understand what is expected and how their progress will be evaluated.


Monitoring Progress

Regular check-ins to monitor progress ensure that the employee stays on track. These sessions provide an opportunity to adjust the plan as needed and offer additional support.


Providing Resources and Support

Employees need the right resources and support to improve their performance.


Training and Development Programmes

Offering training and development programmes helps employees gain new skills and knowledge, enhancing their ability to perform effectively. PerformanceHub supports Personal Development Plans for example. These are an easy way to create plans, monitor progress and keep a record of achievements.  

Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring and coaching provide personalised support, helping employees overcome challenges and grow professionally.


Addressing Personal Issues

Managers should be understanding towards employees dealing with personal issues. Offering flexible working arrangements or access to employee assistance programmes can make a significant difference.


Improving the Workplace Environment

Creating a positive and supportive work environment boosts morale and productivity.


Recognising and Rewarding Improvement

Recognition and rewards for improvement motivate employees to continue their efforts.


Encouraging Open Communication

Open communication fosters trust and collaboration, making it easier to address performance issues constructively.


Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement

A culture of continuous improvement encourages employees to seek opportunities for growth and development.


Leveraging Technology for Performance Management

Technology can play a significant role in managing performance effectively.


Using Performance Management Software

Performance management software, like PerformanceHub, provides tools for tracking performance, setting goals, and providing feedback, making the process more efficient and transparent.


Data-Driven Decision Making

Using data to inform decisions helps in identifying trends, diagnosing issues, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.


Addressing Persistent Underperformance

Despite best efforts, some employees may continue to underperform. It’s essential to handle these situations with care.


When to Consider Reassignment or Termination

If an employee consistently fails to meet performance standards, reassignment or termination may be necessary. This should be done in accordance with organisational policies and legal requirements.


Legal and Ethical Considerations

Managers must ensure that all actions taken to address underperformance are fair, transparent, and comply with legal and ethical standards.



Addressing underperformance is a critical part of effective management. By identifying the causes, setting clear expectations, providing support, and fostering a positive work environment, managers can help employees improve their performance and contribute to the organisation’s success.




What are the common signs of underperformance?

Common signs include frequent mistakes, missed deadlines, lack of engagement, and negative attitudes. Managers should stay vigilant and use objective metrics to assess performance regularly.


How can managers set clear expectations for their team?

Managers can set clear expectations by providing detailed job descriptions, setting SMART goals, and regularly communicating with team members about their responsibilities and performance standards.


What role does communication play in addressing underperformance?

Communication is key to addressing underperformance. Clear, open, and honest communication helps in setting expectations, providing feedback, and resolving issues constructively.


How can managers provide constructive feedback effectively?

Managers should focus on specific behaviours and outcomes, provide actionable advice, and support employees in making necessary changes. Feedback should be timely, clear, and delivered in a supportive manner.


What should be included in a performance improvement plan?

A performance improvement plan should include SMART goals, a timeline for improvement, specific actions the employee will take, and regular check-ins to monitor progress. It should also outline the support and resources available to the employee.


When should reassignment or termination be considered?

Reassignment or termination should be considered when an employee consistently fails to meet performance standards despite receiving support and interventions. This should be done in accordance with organisational policies and legal requirements.

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