The thought of informing an employee that they’re not working up to scratch in their job can be a daunting thought. It might be the case that individual is generally in your good books and shows potential, however you might have noticed bad habits and slacking which is negatively impacting the business.
If you’re a manager that needs to address this issue – there are many ways you can approach this courageous conversation without coming across stand-offish or rude. First, let’s explore the following concerns, followed by how we can tackle the issue the right way:
- What exactly is underperformance?
- What causes underperformance in employees?
- Developing a plan with your employee/s
- Steps if no improvement is being made
What exactly is underperformance?
Underperformance observed within an employee means they’re not performing their required duties up to company standard.
The following points underline what classes as underperformance in the workplace:
- Failing to perform duties or work assigned
- Non-compliance with work procedures and policies
- Bad behaviour that negatively impacts others in the workplace
What causes underperformance in employees?
Identifying the underlying cause of an employee’s underperformance will better equip you with an action plan to tackle the issue. It might be that your approach is an informal chat or a formal meeting with HR.
There are a variety of reasons as to why an employee might underperform at work. It can be one or a combination of the following reasons:
- Unclear expectations from management
- Low morale in the team/company at large
- Isolation and/or workplace bullying
- Lack of feedback on the job
- Lack of on-the-job training
- Personal issues outside of work
With the above in mind, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions when you’re trying to identify the cause of your employee’s underperformance:
- Has the employee underperformed in the past?
- Are the workloads manageable?
- Are there any outside work matters that could be affecting the employee’s concentration?
- Are there internal issues that could be affecting the employee’s ability to ask for assistance?
- Was the wrong person hired for the job?
- Has the employee had enough training?
- Are expectations and targets clear to the employee?
Developing a plan with your employee/s
The first step is to see if underperformance is taking place at an individual level. If this is a case the a personalised approach to tackling the issue is the way to go. If it’s a recurring issue amongst team members then it’s definitely a good idea to analyse your business training structure and procedures to see if there are pitfalls leading to underperformance.
There are many approaches you can take to approach the employee in question – here are some loose guidelines you can follow, which you can tailor depending on the severity of the situation:
- Approach the employee asking
for an informal meeting and ask if things have been ok for them or if they have
any issues they want to discuss.
- In most cases, this simple approach can help an employee open up, which helps a great deal in identifying the problem
- Should the employee not disclose any issues/assume things are fine in the workplace then being open and honest with the issues, whilst showing empathy to the employee can inspire the employee to see this as an opportunity for growth as opposed to fear of their position in the company.
- Ask questions about what they want to get out of the training/the support they need, this makes employees feel reassured that it’s not all down to them to make the change, but rather a group effort.
- Write the issues down on paper, complete with action plans to solve issues and the time required. These can be in the form of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-framed) targets.
- Should the issues be rooted in personal problems then offer to be a listening ear and advise on any employee support your HR has to offer.
- Emphasise the confidentiality of the development plan and ensure all conversation are kept positive to encourage change.
Steps if no improvement is being made
If you find that after the steps followed that no improvement has been made, then a formal route is the way to go. Emphasise that if no change is made the disciplinary action could be made which could lead to dismissal. Always ensure that if using this method to tackle underperformance that your actions comply with UK employment law.
Disciplinary procedures vary per company so it’s worth consulting with your HR department, however they typically follow this pattern.
- Write to your employee inviting them to a disciplinary hearing with a decent amount of notice.
- Stress that the employee can be accompanied by a witness
- State in your letter why the disciplinary hearing is taking place, providing dates of events where necessary
- During the meeting, give the employee time to provide evidence as to why they shouldn’t be given a formal warning (or dismissal)
- Notify the employee that they have the right to appeal the decision in writing.
Guest post & Author Bio
Christina is Copywriter for The Hub Events – a leading provider of management and leadership courses in the UK. Be sure to check them out!
Geoff is a blogger, social media consultant, influencer and loves to motivate people. Ever since venturing on his own journey, he has acquired many skill sets in business, blogging, self-development and more. From faith, podcasts, books, mentors and personal experiences he believes in sharing the knowledge gained with the intention of helping other people.