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What To Do: Employee Underperformance

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What To Do: Employee Underperformance

Every manager at some point in their career will have to learn to deal with an underperforming employee. If your staff isn’t performing at their best, it can decrease morale and your business’s ability to meet its’ objectives. It is both important and fair for leadership and the underperforming employee to find a solution to their underperformance issue.

Why People Underperform

There are many reasons why an employee may perform poorly. According to Module 4 of the Front Line Leadership Program, some of reasons include:

  • (The Employee) Doesn't Know How to Do…: These employees do not feel properly trained or adequately skilled to complete the task at hand, and their lack of success may simply stem from their inability to understand what is expected of them.
  • (The Employee is) Unable to Do…: While these employees understand what is expected of them and have received adequate training, they may not have the capability to complete certain tasks or jobs due to their personal abilities, be that intellect, physical capabilities, or other factors.
  • (The Employee) Won't Do…: These employees, despite having the training and ability to complete their tasks, lack some drive to do so. For some, a lack of confidence or fear of making mistakes may keep them from taking the risks they need to succeed, for others, they may not feel valued or needed in the workplace and fail to see how their work can impact the success of the company, others, still, may have pervasive issues occurring outside the workplace that impact their attitude, and finally, there are those that are simply unmotivated and fail to see the importance or value of their work.
  • (The Employee) Isn't Allowed to Do…: While many causes of underperformance stem from the employee themselves, there are some whose lack of performance are due to circumstances outside of their control. These employees, though willing and able to complete the tasks assigned to them, are not given the tools, processes, or support required to complete the task. Their suggestions and input are often ignored and discounted and, quite often, they are not given enough authority to make decisions that are appropriate for the job.

More Common Causes of Underperformance

While the issues above are some of the most common causes of underperformance, there can be any number of issues causing the problem. Some examples include:

  • Health and wellness issues: Whether they are absent from work or present but working at a reduced capacity, employees suffering from physical or mental illness have difficulty performing at their peak.
  • Physical and environmental factors: Numerous behavioral studies have proven that a pleasant and comfortable work environment improves worker productivity and reduces turnover.
  • Lack of Experience: Just because an employee has the skills to do a job doesn’t mean that he has the experience to apply those skills in his specific position. This is especially true for recent graduates, outside hires from different industries and internal hires from different departments.

What C-Suite Employees Can Do About It

There are five main ways to overcome performance problems associated with a lack of ability. Consider using them in this sequence, which starts with the least intrusive:

  1. Resupply: Focus on the resources provided to do the job. Do employees have what they need to perform well and meet expectations?
  2. Retrain: Provide additional training to team members. Explore with them whether they have the actual skills required to do what's expected.
  3. Refit: Analyze the individual components of the work, and try out different combinations of tasks and abilities. Your goal is to retain the employee, meet operational needs, and provide meaningful and rewarding work to everyone involved.
  4. Reassign: When revising or refitting the job doesn't turn the situation around, look at reassigning the poor performer to a job that is still challenging and stimulating.
  5. Release: As a final option for lack of ability, you may need to let the employee go.

During this process, it is very important to set clear and reasonable expectations. Goal setting is a well-recognized aspect of performance improvement. Employees must understand what's expected of them and agree on what they need to do to improve.

For more information about how the Front Line Leadership Program can transform your organization or for pricing information, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out a contact form on our contact page.


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