How Do You Handle Underperforming Employees?


I often get asked what to do with some one who is not living up to what the manager or leader feel they should.  To answer that question I usually ask the following:

  • What is your definition of underperforming?

  • How long has the person been with you?

  • If a short time, how well were they trained; if a long time is this a recent situation and if so are there external factors such as a sick parent?

  • Do you have their key accountabilities – those 5 measurable things that if they did them well you would forgive them for other small things?

  • Have you shared with them these key accountabilities so they know what is specifically expected?

  • Do you have specifics you can share with them on how they could perform better?

  • Have you asked them what could help them achieve the key accountabilities?

Once you have thought through what is going on with this person, develop a follow-up process with performance goals and review times.  Show an interest in their success and reward verbally.

If milestones and goals are not being met during the follow-up period, act quickly and be ready to let the person go.  You want to make sure not to disengage good team members by keeping an under-performer who doesn’t want to get better.