How to Manage Underperforming Employees


How to Manage Underperforming Employees

So often we talk about finding those top performers in the company and pushing them to reach their potential. But what do you do when you come across those employees who are underperforming in their roles? Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances as to why an employee’s performance may temporarily drop. But when the occasional slip up turns into a permanent behaviour, then it’s time to evaluate the employee’s future with the company.

Some people might not see the harm in keeping a few underperformers around in their organization. One example is by having underperformers in a position of power, it causes tremendous amounts of damage. When low performers continue to be in leadership jobs there are numerous consequences for their direct reports, which include advancement opportunities being blocked, people not being developed, low morale and productivity, and low job performance. These all lead to high performers ultimately leaving the company and this results in fewer “A” players being attracted to join the company. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t stop until a change is made from either the employer or employee.

How do you avoid that cycle when it becomes apparent that there are underperformers in your organizations? At Volaris we have come up with a proven multiple step action plan to work through these situations when they arise.

Step 1: Do we have a clear assessment of the employee’s results and skills?

If not, then reassess in 3 months. Without a clear assessment, a manager cannot make a fair, rational decision. If you do have an assessment, then move onto step two.

Step 2: Employee could improve enough, and hasn’t been given a strong message

Sometimes employees don’t realize that they are not meeting expectations. Miscommunications do happen from time to time. By making the employee aware of their performance, putting them on formal notice, and providing feedback and coaching, the employee will either rise to the occasion or not.

Step 3: Is the employee a square peg in a round hole with some valuable skills?

At this step, an employee with skills that is still not performing should voice if they feel that they are in the right role. If they haven’t said anything, ask them point blank if they feel they should switch roles, and if yes, then move the employee to a role that they would be better suited for. If the employee doesn’t feel that staying with the company is the right thing for them and their career, then it’s time to discuss parting ways.

This method works for a variety of reasons. First, we don’t give up on the employee. We give ample opportunity for the employee to correct their behaviour or find another area of the company where they may excel at. Also, it’s a logical process that can be applied to any employee, which reduces the probability of making irrational decisions based on emotion instead of what is best for the business. Finally, it clearly shows our due diligence so no rash decisions are made.

But keep in mind, throughout this process the employee has as much vested interest as the employer in improving their performance. It is up to them if they want to be a part of your organization or not. If either party is not willing to put the time and effort into the other, then it is time to move on.

Finally, a key component to this whole process is to not procrastinate. It’s natural to avoid having to discipline an employee or give them bad news, but the more you delay the process, the more you allow the problem to fester and cripple the employee and business in the long run.

Your Turn

What has your experience been with low performers? How have you handled them? Do you think it could have been handled better? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn and subscribe to our blog for more articles on talent management.


About the Author

Mark Miller

Mark Miller's avatar

Mark Miller is the Global CEO of Volaris Group and Trapeze Group. In addition, Mark is the COO at Constellation Software – Volaris Group’s parent company. He began his career as a software developer and it was during that time that he cofounded Trapeze Group in 1995. Mark has a passion for software technology and building innovative businesses that last forever. His goal is to help intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs surround themselves with a great team so that they can be leaders in their industries.

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