How to Manage Poor Performance in the Workplace


One of the most demanding professional changes is taking on the role of a new manager. Along with team leadership, you must develop management skills for your direct reports’ subpar work.

Even if you have years of experience managing teams, coaching bad performance requires a unique set of skills that you must develop over time. The good news is that it’s a skill you can create.

We’re ready to provide you with a concrete example of how to deal with subpar work performance. Additionally, we’ll explain bad employee performance, why it occurs, and precisely how you may approach it as a manager or leader with assurance.

What is poor performance?

Poor work performance, by definition, happens when an employee doesn’t meet the demands or obligations of their position. Employees who fail to meet their objectives or particular benchmarks within a specified time may also be underperforming.

Performance issues may also be linked to an employee’s interactions with or conduct on their team. Impaired performance at work can take many forms, such as regularly being late, forgetting essential duties, or arguing with coworkers.

Examples of subpar performance

A subpar performance at work can negatively impact the morale and productivity of your whole team. Office errors, even accidental ones, need to be fixed. Here are a few instances to show what constitutes poor performance at work:


  • Never being on time: Whether it’s a meeting or a deadline, poorly performing employees can never meet expectations regarding time. 


  • Negative attitude: Instead of collaborating with team members and taking on new projects with a positive attitude, these employees complain and cause conflict. 


  • Failure to accomplish tasks: Whether it’s because they lack the ability or are just lazy, underperforming employees don’t get things done. 


  • Inability to accept input: When you give your employees comments to assist them in improving, they don’t consider it and eventually keep making the same mistakes.


  • No attention to detail: These employees appear distracted rather than paying attention to their job, as seen by their failure to respond to crucial emails or inability to complete projects according to schedule.

What contributes to subpar performance?

Knowing the underlying reason is a good plan to implement before you fix performance issues. Each worker is unique, and subpar performance might originate from anywhere.

That said, the following are some of the most typical reasons for subpar work performance:


1. Personal issues

Everyone knows that having health issues or being worn out from caring for children may significantly influence one’s ability to perform well at work. If circumstances are causing problems, perhaps you and your coworker can devise a temporary fix until the issue is rectified.

Managing work and life without experiencing burnout or other health issues can be challenging. You’ll need a unique strategy to train your employees through burnout while giving them the assistance they need to recuperate if burnout is the root of their performance concerns.


2. Conflict at work

Coworker disputes are frequently subtle, but even when they aren’t, they can still cause tension, distraction, and irritation for the parties involved. This invariably results in subpar performance. The good news is that if managed properly, conflict might even be beneficial.


3. Skills gaps

Your employee may have been given a task they are unsure how to do but are reluctant to ask for help out of fear. They attempt to solve the problem on their own, but a manager that gives guidance and training is actually what they need.


4. Lack of motivation

Occasionally, workers lack the drive to show concern for their jobs. Perhaps they feel there will be no influence from their labor, so why bother? Additionally, they could feel overburdened, unsure of their obligations, or bored. All of this may sap their will to work hard.


5. Detecting poor performance

You’ll probably be able to spot subpar work when you see it. Nevertheless, it could need deliberate observation to distinguish between a trend of poor performance and the occasional workplace error.

Here are some questions to ask oneself when spotting subpar performance among your employees:

  • Has an employee consistently failed to meet their objectives for possibly a month or longer? While missing one target makes sense, doing it repeatedly becomes a concern.


  • Do they frequently do lousy work, or was it solely this one assignment?


  • Do they neglect to communicate, fulfill deadlines, or complete tasks? Are they frequently impeding your team’s capacity to complete tasks by failing to meet their obligations?


  • Do they frequently clash with the leadership or other employees? Or did you only notice one unusual argument?


  • Do they take criticism well and improve as soon as you suggest them? Or do they shut out helpful criticism and become defensive?

How to deal with subpar performance

It might be frightening to begin a performance management procedure. It’s never enjoyable to give someone feedback or, worse, to terminate them if they can’t provide the needed improvements.

The most comprehensive step-by-step manual for dealing with subpar employee performance is available from us to assist you:

  • Be prepared for a strong reaction
  • Address the issue directly.
  • Early involvement of human resources is important. 
  • Successful planning

Let’s now take a closer look at each of these phases, with a focus on how to follow up and make difficult choices when necessary.


1. Be ready for a strong reaction

You should rehearse before any challenging conversations so that you are ready for anything.

Let’s use a hypothetical case of Juliette and Imani. Here Imani is a manager, and Juliette is a problematic employee. In this case, Imani is ready for a strong response as she’s about to enter a dialogue regarding Juliette’s performance. Imani is familiar with Juliette, but talking to her is never simple.

  • If Juliette downplays all of her performance issues, what will Imani do?
  • Imagine if she started crying.
  • What if she becomes enraged? Or exhibits almost no emotion?

Take a break from the talk if your team member gets a bit too emotional to continue. But constantly return to the subject at hand. Despite the difficulty of the talk, don’t end it.


2. Deal with the issue face-to-face

Imani ought to have a face-to-face meeting with Juliette (even if it’s on a Zoom call) once she has determined exactly what Juliette’s performance issues are. When expressing that Juliette’s work falls short of her standards, Imani must be truthful and forthright.

Not sure where to start? Consider starting with something like, “Juliette, we’ve talked about [these specific mistakes] a few times, and we’re still encountering them. Please enlighten me as to why you are unable to complete this task to my standards.

Here are some suggestions to help the discussion go as smoothly as possible after you’ve initiated it:

  • Don’t use the “compliment sandwich” strategy: By doing this, some individuals attempt to lessen the sting of unfavorable criticism, but it can take away from your core point. People frequently opt to listen to the positive news and disregard the negative.


  • Adopt a coaching stance: To determine whether performance issues are more complex than they appear, ask several questions. The finest managers teach staff members rather than simply relying on them to solve problems on their own.


  • Actively listen: Listen carefully to your teammate since candid conversations can lead to the discovery of fresh info. This will offer them the freedom to express their issues, which may then assist you in developing a plan to enhance their performance.


3. Early involvement of human resources

Contacting an HR colleague as soon as performance issues arise is important. For instance, Imani, a new manager, would need to comprehend the company’s regulations to cope with subpar performance. Here, an HR partner may be a huge assistance.

Juliette may require a performance improvement plan if she has all the necessary skills and assistance but is still underperforming. Ensuring it is done correctly will be easier with an HR partner. HR, for instance, can assist in determining how much time is necessary to address the problem. HR is a fantastic resource for help, regardless of the reason for underperformance.


4. Create a successful plan.

It’s now time to develop a plan that will aid in your employees’ performance improvement. Underperforming employees can start to thrive again with the correct strategy and a skilled coach (you!).

The following are the key elements of a strategy to improve subpar performance:

  • Clarify your expectations: Make sure that staff members are aware of exactly what needs to change. To ensure people are aware of their goals, put it in writing.


  • Close the skills gap: Does the employee lack any particular skills? Do they require new training? Is there a learning route that might assist them in upskilling and performance improvement? Make a list of steps your employee can take, and ensure they carry them out.


  • Examine overall job fitness. How are an employee’s supplementary skills if they don’t match the technical requirements of their current position? You might well be able to find them a better function inside your firm if they’re a terrific team player and fit with the company’s culture.


  • Analyze your management approach: Is there anything you can do to improve your managerial style that would be beneficial? Asking your supervisor for advice and mentorship can help you develop into the greatest manager and leader you can be.


  • Follow up, and be prepared to make a difficult choice if necessary: Once you’ve developed a foolproof plan to assist your employee in raising their performance, be sure to follow up often. You’ll need to ask some challenging questions if you don’t see any changes.

For instance, does your employee have all the necessary abilities but is unable to complete the task? If this is the case, more training will not assist in enhancing performance, and it may be time to consider firing the employee. As a manager, you never want to make that decision, but the finest leaders know when and how to do so.

Even if it ends up in a termination, everyone will gain in the long run since your employee will be able to find a position that better utilizes their skill set. The company will be able to recruit someone who fits the team better.

Enhancing motivation through establishing a purpose

So now you know how to handle subpar work from your team. But before we go, we wanted to provide a unique tactic for raising performance. Are you aware that individuals tend to be much more engaged and driven to work well when they feel purpose?

According to studies from Gallup, connecting employees to a company’s goal or purpose lowers employee turnover and boosts profitability. Employees must feel pride in their job and understand how it affects things beyond what they do daily.

How can you increase your employees’ motivation and give them a stronger sense of direction at work? It would be best if you personalized things.


  • Please discuss with your staff what is important to them, what they hold dear, and how it relates to the objective of the business.


  • Help them understand how their unique talents and everyday tasks may impact the business and the globe.


  • Discuss how team objectives, individual initiatives, and the company’s larger mission are all connected and how they each have a significant influence.

You can develop a high-performance culture by taking these steps. Employees will have a genuine sense of purpose, inspiring them to do their finest work.


Learning how to handle bad performance is an essential skill. Although it’s never easy, it does get better. You’ll get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction if you can assist a team member in getting on track and succeeding in their assigned responsibilities.

You’ll need honest and open communication as well as a good, sympathetic mindset to execute it properly. You’ll also need poise and bravery to engage in challenging talks.


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