How to Identify Underperformance and Deal With It the Right Way

How to Identify Underperformance and Deal With It the Right WayUnderperformance is one of those silent killers that can creep up slowly and really damage your business. Fortunately, by identifying underperformance early and implementing solutions, you can keep your employees on track. In this article, we are going to show you the very best ways to solve underperformance.

What Is Underperformance?

Underperformance occurs when an employee is not performing their role correctly and not meeting company expectations. Here are some classic examples of underperformance in the workplace:

Failing to complete specific tasks or submitting poor work
Not following rules and specific company policies (e.g., turning up to work late, not attending mandatory meetings)
Rude or bad behavior (e.g., swearing, not responding to emails, spreading rumors about co-workers) 

Why Does Underperformance Occur?

Employees end up underperforming for a variety of reasons. It is important to know that not all employees underperform because they lack skills or are lazy. Check out some of the common reasons for underperformance below:

Lack of Opportunities

It is common for employees to take their foot off the medal and start underperforming if they see no room for career growth. If you want to ensure your employees don’t underperform, you need to give them the ability to attain promotions, gain extra responsibilities, and of course, extra money. There is nothing more demotivating for an employee to find out their pay is capped and their role will remain the same for the indefinite future.

Lack of Challenges

Employees aren’t just motivated by extra cash and fancy titles! They also want to be challenged and take on new projects and learn new skills. Employees that become bored are prime candidates to start underperforming. If you notice an employee is starting to underperform, why not put them on a new project or get them involved in a new learning module?

Lack of Communication

Employees who don’t understand their role, the company culture, or the specific tasks they need to complete will often struggle. Managers need to take a proactive role and get their employees to fully understand what they need to be doing and why. If you can get your employees to totally grasp their role and buy into the “why,” you will have a highly motivated workforce that is excited to turn up to the office every day.

Work-Related Stress

Workplace stress is a major issue, and it is estimated that over 40% of workers are currently stressed due to their job. The pandemic has led to heightened levels of stress as many parents are struggling to work from home and look after their kids. Stressed employees are not in the right mindset to work effectively, and this often leads to missed deadlines and poor work. To battle this issue, you need to promote work-life balance among your employees, provide them with adequate leave and give them additional resources, such as counseling or a mentor.

Personal Issues

Has one of your employees recently been ill? Are they going through a divorce, or have they lost a loved one? These common personal issues can wreak havoc on an employee’s work performance. Performing tasks is hard enough when you are healthy, and life is good! It is critical that you support your employees who are going through a difficult time. Remember to provide them with leave, offer them services, and show that you genuinely care by taking the time to chat with them!

Developing a Plan With an Underperforming Employee

Do you want to get your employees performing at their best again? Do you want to prevent underperformance for good? Then follow these steps:

  • Casually strike up a conversation and ask them how they have been going and give them the opportunity to bring up issues.
  • During this initial casual conversation, voice a few concerns you are having and schedule a further meeting to come up with a plan to address them.
  • During a sit-down meeting, write down the issues and come up with a plan to resolve them. SMART targets are a great approach to setting goals. Use software and tools to help you track these and complete these goals. The SignalHire tool is perfect for this because it acts as performance management software and can effectively track the KPIs of employees via in-depth stats and show who is meeting their goals.
  • If your employee is suffering from stress or personal problems, provide support services, such as counseling or medical assistance. 
  • It is important that every interaction is positive and motivational.

How to Provide Feedback to an Underperforming Employee

Providing feedback to an underperforming employee is difficult. You don’t want to be overly harsh and hurt their feelings, leading to a conflict or the employee going into denial. At the same time, you don’t want to sugarcoat the issue and make the employee think it is not a big deal. Check out some dos and don'ts to help you give constructive feedback to an underperforming employee:


  • Explain to the employee why the issue needs to be addressed
  • Provide concrete examples of how the employee can improve
  • Identify the root cause of the underperformance
  • Be encouraging, make sure the employee believes that they can improve
  • Be kind and positive


  • List every single issue and overwhelm your employee. Instead, focus on 1 or 2 main issues
  • Display negative emotions. The last thing you want to do is get angry or frustrated
  • Resort to threats "if you can’t perform your job properly, you will be fired."

What to Do If No Improvements Occur

Even if you are a master motivator and come with the very best solutions to get your employees back there, it doesn’t always work! If you find yourself in this situation, you will have to take formal action, which may result in a dismissal.

The first step is to send a formal notice to the employee informing them that disciplinary action may be taken if their performance does not improve. It is best to consult with your HR department as they will understand company procedures and local workplace legislation. The best steps to take include:

  • Invite your employee to a meeting in writing
  • Give the employee the opportunity to bring someone along
  • List the reasons why the disciplinary meeting is occurring
  • During the disciplinary hearing, lay out the issues and provide evidence, give the employee the ability to respond
  • Make your decision

Sometimes the best decision for your company is to dismiss an employee and find another candidate who is more suited for the role. You don’t want to waste time and money on an employee who has no interest in performing their role to a high standard.


Employee underperformance can cause your revenue to tank and lead to mass resignations. To avoid this tricky problem, you need to keep a close eye on your employees’ performance and then quickly identify the root cause. Once the root cause is identified, you can use our steps to rectify the situation. Remember to take an analytical approach to solve underperformance, avoid blaming your employees, and always look for solutions that can help get your business and employees back on track!



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