Dealing With Underperforming Employees

As Leaders one of the hardest tasks you have to deal with is underperforming employees. This is especially true for people new to leadership, and it can be quite a daunting prospect.  It can feel confrontational, especially if the person is older or has more experience than you.

But you have to deal with it. If you don’t it can impact your credibility as a leader, it can undermine you and make you seem which, which is not a good quality for a leader.

Start by being supportive

To make the situation easier, the approach I always suggest is to approach the matter from a position of support.

Ask what you can do to help them be more successful. Ask them if they have everything that they need to be successful. 

In my experience, nobody comes to work looking to fail, so you need to check if they have the right skills, the right tools, enough time to do the job and to check whether the job is achievable. 

If not, then they are not failing they are being failed, and you need to address that. 

This is not a weak approach, this actually requires more strength and courage, than just calling someone out or criticizing them. This approach will actually help build credibility and enhance your reputation, as everyone wants to work for a supportive boss.

If they have everything they need but are choosing to fail. Choosing to not put in the required effort, then you need to act. You need to address this, give them a clear warning, set clear expectations and set a point to review improvements.

Be fair, but also firm

If you have started off by being supportive, but have found this hasn’t worked, then it feels much less confrontational from your side, if you now need to take firmer action.

It might not feel comfortable, but you need to remember that you need to also look after the rest of the team too. If one person is underperforming it can increase the workload for everyone else. It can reduce the overall effectiveness, morale, and engagement of the team.

As leaders, you have a responsibility to everyone, and that means addressing low performers who are damaging the team.