10 Ways for Managing Underperforming Employees

Employees are supposed to be assets to the company, never a headache. However, there are times when some employees, for various reasons, do not deliver what’s expected from their role. Underperformance must be acted upon right away as it can affect the productivity of other employees; it can lead to dissatisfied clients; and worse, it can lead to unacceptable, million dollar-worth errors. If you are an HR staff, a manager or an owner of a company, the following steps could help you manage underperforming employees.

  1. Review the performance history of underperforming employees.

First of all, the management and the HR team must review the work performance history of each underperforming employee. Validate if they really are not delivering well or they just committed a few mistakes. Compile all the relevant information needed to serve as “proof” of their underperformance.

  1. Listen to the side of the employees through a casual yet private face-to-face meeting.

Before telling the problem, individually reach out to the employees first. Ask about how work has been for them and genuinely listen to their concerns. Ask about their personal problems. Do not stop asking until you’ve found out the reason behind their failure to meet work expectations.

  1. Address the work performance-related concerns to each employee after hearing their side.

Walk them through the history of their work performance. Enumerate the potential threats to the company and consequences of continued underperformance. Briefly, let them know that your meeting is considered a verbal warning and you’re giving them the chance to prove themselves and perform better. Meanwhile, company policies regarding failure to carry out roles well must also be addressed, including possible sanctions and termination.

  1. Encourage the employees and set work performance goals.

Do not, in any way, belittle the employees as it can lead to more anxiety. Look at their individual strengths and encourage them with kind words. Let them know that you’ve hired them because you believe in their capabilities. You can also boost their performance by helping them set work performance goals. Set a time frame wherein certain improvements must be seen from them.

  1. Provide additional training and resources if necessary.

Ask the employees if they need more time for training or if they need more resources related to their role. If they don’t have enough knowledge about their scope of work, it will be really hard for them to improve.

  1. Motivate them with incentives.

Rewards and recognition are two of the things that motivate employees to do their best at work. Aside from recognition, you can also give them small tokens of appreciation for every goal achieved based on the time-frame you’ve set. If your company is generous enough, offer gift certificates or monetary rewards.

  1. Track their progress for a specific span of time.

In a shared file, create a progress sheet for each employee so you and the employee can track his/her improvements within the set time-frame. You may also ask for a progress report or feedback from the employee’s supervisor or manager. Pay attention to the things that require improvement, compile them and use them for another face-to-face meeting. 

  1. Follow up on the employees.

Most of the time one meeting is never enough to make things better. Therefore, you must weekly follow up with the employees and talk about the goals you’ve set before, their progress, the feedback of their superior or leader and the things that require improvement. Listen to their current concerns and provide necessary support.

  1. If there is no improvement halfway through the set time frame, consider other options.

If you think a certain employee really deserves a slot in your business yet after several follow-ups, the employee still couldn’t deliver what’s required of his/her role, consider other saving options such as assigning an easier role.

  1. When all else fails, proceed to termination.

Termination must be a company’s last resort. However, if the circumstances call for it and the management agrees, do not hesitate to do so. Remember that it’s easier to find new talent than to put the company’s image and the welfare of other employees at risk.


Handling underperforming employees is one of the most challenging responsibilities leaders of a company must face. But with the right mindset and the right approach, it is something that your company can overcome.