How to Handle Underperformers

How to Handle Underperformers

Regularly I get asked to assist with handling underperformers. Very often it has been ignored for too long and now suddenly something has to happen. The manager is annoyed about the employee’s recent behaviour, a solution has to be found immediately and if possible a dismissal would be most welcome.Handling underperformers is not a quick fix solution. However it is essential that underperformers are dealt with! If you ignore the issue your company will create a company culture of underperformance. Something you definitely don’t want.


In tackling the tricky problem of underperformance at any level, it is always important to understand what is causing the performance shortfall. This is critical to decisions on what to do and how to deal with the issues both for the individual and organisation.


The most usual causes of under-performance are:

  • Capability: promoted beyond personal ability to develop and change; insufficient development input either recently or earlier in career; in the wrong role for skills / capabilities
  • Inappropriate attitudes or behaviours – resistance to change – inappropriate leadership style – coasting: doing just enough
  • Interference of background issues: family and marriage
  • Illness – medical conditions
  • Poor management / clarity of direction – being allowed to do the wrong things; unrealistic objectives
  • Lack of support from manager / colleagues / others who should contribute to achievement levels.
  • Substance abuse – alcohol and / or drugs
  • Insufficient self confidence / self-esteem – sometimes related to harassment and bullying.


Managers need to take decisions in handling underperformance. It can often be helpful for the manager to set up and agree a performance improvement plan – a short term performance plan where the manager works closely with the individual. This typically involves frequent meetings to review progress with agreed actions, the provision of personal support and coaching from the line manager. However set a deadline for the improvement plan if let say there is no improvement after two or three months then a more serious action plan needs to be unfolded.


The next step is the Disciplinary Procedure and you need to follow your own disciplinary procedure as described in your contract of employment. Often this is done in conjunction with a development plan but if there are no improvements then written warnings under the company disciplinary procedure will follow. Often there is a wake up and suddenly employee improves considerable. However sometimes the employee doesn’t change his behaviour and eventually they will exit the company.


It is important to have a clear approach when dealing with underperformers and give them the support to change and improve however if this doesn’t happen then there is only one option open to a company…


If you want to talk to me about under performance give me a call at 065 7071933

By | May 13th, 2014|News|

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