Addressing employee underperformance is a crucial task that is often avoided.

It is impossible to establish a culture of high performance and achievement when leadership ignores those employees who habitually fail to meet expectations. Unfortunately, addressing underperforming employees is one of the most often-avoided management tasks. Although a manager is responsible for the motivation and performance of their teams, many are uncomfortable with addressing a problem employee, most often because they lack experience in providing feedback, fear that addressing the issue could negatively affect morale, or believe their schedule does not permit time to confront the employee. However, avoiding this task can significantly affect the productivity of the team, cost the organization valuable resources, and frustrate and discourage those employees who satisfactorily perform their tasks.

In order to create a culture of personal development and high performance, managers need to regularly and clearly share their expectations for work performance with their teams. Performance issues generally begin within the first few months of employment, largely because the new employee is unaware of certain aspects of his or her role. That is why coaching during the onboarding process is critical to preventing underperformance issues in the future. If a manager fails to address shortcoming early on, the employee will believe that their current work standard is acceptable.

If an established employee begins to underperform, managers need to react quickly to address the behavior before it affects the productivity of the team. Because it is easy to avoid this task, it is best practice to schedule regular opportunities to meet with employees one-on-one and provide performance feedback. This keeps management from procrastinating in addressing the issue, as well as ensures that all team members know the expectations for their work. 

In certain cases, when employees are aware of the expectations of their work and have been notified of shortfalls, but continue to underperform, managers should create a performance improvement plan. This allows the employee an opportunity to correct their work habits before more drastic action is taken. Both manager and employee need to outline specific metrics for performance improvement, usually over a period of six months, and share a mutual understanding of the consequences if standards are not met. 

Although the process may intimidate some professionals in leadership positions, addressing employee underperformance is one of the most critical management skills. A successful intervention can also be a rewarding experience, and strengthen bonds between manager and employee.

Organizations that are currently experiencing issues as a result of underperforming teams or a unproductive organization culture should seek a business management consultant to ensure that employees are receiving the appropriate feedback and understand their expectations. Strategic business consulting can boost the productivity of your organizations most critical asset, its employees, increasing competitiveness and boosting morale.