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How do I deal with an underperforming employee?

How do I deal with an underperforming employee?
Nancy Prest
HR advice, Staff development
Find out more about Nancy Prest

In this article you’ll learn

  • How to identify whether a problem exists
  • How to decide on an appropriate course of action
  • How to support your staff

Performance management is about “Caring for and developing your people” whilst “ensuring that departmental & organisational aims are achieved”

It is important to strike a balance between compassion and accountability but each situation in will be different depending on who you’re dealing with and the performance issue being managed.

The first task is to decide whether a problem exists.  Asking is it a question of Won’t Do OR Can’t do?  Once we have an idea then deciding how to manage it is the next step.

The aim is to help the employee find a solution and an open discussion is key to this.  This is the sympathetic & tactful stage and you should make notes after discussions and if any action plan has been agreed. A copy of the action plan can be given to the employee to ensure they know what you’ve discussed and expectations.               

Monitoring performance from this point onwards should be recorded as objectively as possible.  If an action plan has been put in place, the length of monitoring will depend on

  • the nature of the job
  • length of service
  • past performance
  • and degree of poor performance

For example a long serving employee with previously good performance will merit a longer improvement period.

Help the employee to find a solution

Make sure all meetings and notes are in writing as this clarifies what you have both discussed and should you need to look at more formal action, it will help the procedure.

Support and monitoring is often all that is required to re-focus an employee. However more formal capability procedures can be used if the employee fails to meet the action plans agreed and set out.

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When dealing with an underperforming employee, the first step is to identify where and why a problem might exist. Once you have that knowledge, you can put in place a plan to remedy the situation.