Dealing with underperforming employees

Guest Column: Emmanuel Zvada

If some employees in an organisation are not performing at their optimum, it could bring down morale and affect the overall goals of your business. The longer the organisation delays in dealing with such employees, the harder it would be to stamp out the problem. If the employer is not alert, it may become a deep-rooted habit that could spread to other employees and become an huge drag on the entire processes and as a result affect overall production. In actual fact, no organisation can long afford and tolerate poor productivity.

When it comes to knowing what is expected of them, employees need more than a job description: They must know when they are performing well and when they are not. Human resources practitioners must clarify the employers’ expectations and support employees by helping them structure their work and prioritising their tasks. This is very crucial as it helps them in being accountable for their results. 

When a company hires a new employee, obviously, there is a grace period given to them to adjust to their new positions, but this grace is limited. The employee must know that after this grace period has passed, then he or she would be held responsible for meeting performance objectives given.

Deal with underperformance as soon as possible

It should be known to employers that if they do not deal with an underperforming employee urgently, then they are sending a message that this performance or behaviour is acceptable to others, and it sets a bad precedent. 

As soon as the performance issue has come to your attention, you should try to speak to the employee to find out the causes of poor performance. This may help you know exactly what measures to put in place so that organisational productivity would not suffer. This approach would help employees feel valued and that they are part of the company’s development besides being a morale-booster. Here are some tips on how to deal with underperformers:


Before taking corrective measures on underperformers, probing should be the first stage. This is when the managers enquire on the real problem that might be causing poor performance. In probing the employee, managers should also try to ensure that the employee unpacks all the issues surrounding underperformance. Before you decide to act, try to probe your company and its operations.  This is done to check if the difficulties the underperformer is facing is caused by the organisations’ operations or the employee.

Re-evaluate targets

Setting goals and objectives correctly goes a long way in helping in their achievement. Targets must generally be specific, measurable, appropriate and timed. A re-evaluation of the targets should be done as that could be done to help underperformers. Maybe employer targets were too high, causing employees’ failure to meet them. Raising expectations too high might be the reason why you are dissatisfied with their performances, hence the only way to go is to evaluate your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and set your standards from there.

 Training or coaching 

Any company that invests in employee development is investing in its success. By training or coaching employees, you are creating a workplace that is adaptive, flexible and ready for change. 

When you see employees continuously failing to perform, you may want to consider sending them for training so that they could update their skills. 

Coaching could also be done to underperformers. Show them how you want the job done. Let them experience working with you and knowing what is expected of their position. Give them constant feedback about their work so that they can keep on improving until they meet, and even exceed, your expectations.


A transfer involves the shifting of an employee from one job to another, but without changing the responsibilities or compensation. Sometimes it is good to assign employees to where they would best work to their strengths. 

The purposes of these transfers are either to increase their effectiveness or improve their versatility or even to adjust the workforce in the organisation. 

A transfer provides experience in other areas of an employee’s current department or in a new department within the business. A transfer is a way to help an employee gain wider and broader experience within the business.

Poor performance is a form of incapacity. It could also be described as incompetence, lack of skills knowledge, incompatibility, bad attitude and carelessness. If all efforts to help your employee improve his performance are unsuccessful, you will have to take drastic steps to dismiss him or her. 

Source : NewsDay

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