Addressing Poor Performance

Performance is a combination of ability and motivation.

Line managers can be very quick to jump to conclusions, and make a general assumption that an employee is underperforming due to a lack of ability. This is not always the case, as it could be down to motivation, which depends on many other factors. Poor performance needs to be addressed in a very open manner and dealt with as soon as it becomes obvious.

If it is tackled promptly and approached correctly, there is a good chance of turning poor performance into valuable productivity. However, if the under-performer is not challenged early on, it can escalate into a complex issue in the workplace which will subsequently require more time and effort to be resolved.


  1. Identify Under-Performance
  2. Gather evidence (facts, figures, examples)
  3. Discuss with employee formally or informally
  4. Set deadlines and precise expectations
  5. Suggest a plan
  6. Monitor performance

Once you’ve had a discussion with the underperformer, preferably give them a time scale required for performance to improve. Don’t be vague – give precise and clear expectations or deadlines. Suggest a plan that provides them with support they might possibly need in terms of training, mentoring, material and guidance.

Remember – your intention is to help them improve performance. The desired outcome is a more effective employee, so therefore a more productive organisation. A positive approach is most beneficial.

Be open to discussion about the reasons behind the performance. Don’t be set on your gut feeling – it could be something personal. Additionally, let the employee express their view on their personal performance. From here, address the situation appropriately.

An underperformer can jeopardize a business, and as hard as it is as a manager, it has to be dealt with from above. If a manager fails to address underperformance, they could possibly lose credibility and respect from his/her team and colleagues. If performance has been measured in a fair and equitable way and there is no affordable way of refitting or reassigning the employee, the best option is to let them go. Only when negative consequences outweigh the positives.

Poor Personal Performance = Poor Organisational Performance