5 Tips for Motivating an Underperforming Employee

A disengaged or underperforming employee can be catastrophic for an organization. They force you to drag out projects or consume your time. You must constantly push them to perform. Often, managers ignore these employees until their performance results in their termination. There are superior ways to deal with this problem, and here are tips for motivating your underperforming employees.

How to Motivate an Underperforming Employee


Address Performance Problems Directly

If you have an underperforming employee, it is vital that you do not delay talking to them regarding the problem. Unfortunately, management often ignores many performance issues until it is too late. Typically, managers transfer the employee or let them stay without taking any action to resolve issues. Underperformance is contagious too. If you ignore this problem, it will spread throughout your organization. Underperforming issues with employees will not resolve themselves. They will fester and get worse.

Get to the Root of the Problem

Try to discover the actual cause of the problem. Is the employee a bad fit? Or perhaps they lack the necessary skills for the job? The underperformance may stem from a misunderstanding of expectations that are correctable with training. Are you and the employee jointly responsible for poor performance? There is a likelihood you may have contributed to the negative situation. Figure out the root cause. You and the employee may both need to make changes.

Remain Objective

To motivate an employee, you must remain objective without bias. If you are disappointed and angry with the employee, you are probably not the best choice for evaluating their performance. Have other managers review the person’s work. Let them know that frustration may be clouding your judgment and only allowing you to see mistakes. These managers can find the facts and determine if there is a communication problem, systemic issue, or a need for further training.

Talk to the Employee

If you have unbiased information, the time has come to talk to the underperforming employee. Please review what you are observing and how their actions directly affect the team and the entire company. It is essential that you stress that you are available to help them. Let them know you realize what their performance issues are, and you know they can do better. Ask for their input into how the problems can improve. Brainstorm and give them a few days to consider the situation and come up with a plan.

Coach the Employee With a Plan

Is the employee not interested in being coached? There is nothing you can do and it’s decision time. If the employee tells you that they are not going to change, you must decide if you can live with the matter and at what cost.

If they are willing to learn and change, then it is time to construct a plan. This decision to improve is the moment when you will get specific about improvements and goals. Write them out on paper and detail exactly how to achieve the goals. Agree on the measurable actions and track their progress. Be realistic with goals and the time frame in which to achieve them.


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