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How do I Deal with an Underperforming Employee?

From time to time, you might need to manage an underperforming employee in your business, and this article will help you handle the situation efficiently and professionally.

You will learn

  • How to identify whether a problem exists
  • How to decide on an appropriate course of action
  • How to support your staff

When you are managing an underperforming employee, it is important to strike a balance between compassion and accountability. Each situation will be different depending on who you are dealing with, and the performance issue being managed, and so you will need to be flexible, but there are some key areas you should address. Performance management is about caring for and developing your employees, whilst also ensuring that departmental and organisational aims are achieved.

Does a problem exist?

The first task is to decide whether a problem exists. Ask yourself, is it a question of "won’t do" OR "can’t do"? Once we have an idea, then deciding how to manage it is the next step.

The aim is to help the employee find a solution, and an open discussion is key to this. This is the sympathetic and tactful stage, and you should make notes after discussions and whether any action plan has been agreed. A copy of the action plan can be given to the employee to ensure they know what you have discussed and any expectations.

Monitoring performance from this point onwards should be recorded as objectively as possible. If an action plan has been put in place, the length of monitoring will depend on:

  • The nature of the job
  • Length of service
  • Past performance
  • Degree of poor performance

For example, a long serving employee with previously good performance will merit a longer improvement period.

Help the employee to find a solution

Make sure all meetings and notes are in writing, as this clarifies what you have both discussed and should you need to look at more formal action, it will help the procedure.

Supporting and monitoring is often all that is required to re-focus an employee. However, more formal capability procedures can be used if the employee fails to meet the action plans agreed and set out.

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Written by:

Nancy Prest

HR expert

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