Can You Turn Around an Underperforming Employee?



You want to have staff that work to make your business a success. But what if you have an employee who is not performing? Should you just fire that person, or put the staffer on an improvement plan, or use another option?

First of all, before you decide anything, there are some questions you need to ask yourself, and them:

Has the employee always been underperforming, or is this a recent issue?:

No matter how well you do your hiring process, you could end up with a dud. If that is the case, that calls for much more aggressive action than if it is a good employee acting up.

If it’s a new employee, explain the rules of the road

You need to let such a staffer know immediately what is expected of him or her.  If the employee doesn’t get it, you need to put them on a performance improvement plan. This is why in many companies, employees are listed on a probationary status for their first three or six months at the firm. Of course, in some cases, if the staffer just isn’t doing the job from the beginning, it might be time to let him or her go.

If it is a longtime good employee gone bad, do you know the reason?

Before you do any action against such an employee, it would behoove you to know why the staffer is not performing as of late. For example, perhaps the worker is having personal problems, like dealing with a sick parent, or a troubled child, or going through a divorce.

What if it is family or personal issues calling the poor performance?

In such cases, you should let the staffer know about your company’s Employee Assistance Program, if you have one, or perhaps offer a leave of absence or some other form of assistance.  It could be a resolvable issue, and if the employee is valuable, you don’t want to lose them over an issue that could be fixable.

If it isn’t a personal issue, is there anything you can do to motivate the employee to do better?

In some cases, it could be that the employee is either bored or burned out with the job. Is there anything that could be done to make the employee’s work more challenging, interesting or fulfilling? Even the best of staffers may get a little bored if they don’t get to grow in their job. Are you providing enough opportunities for advancement, or training opportunities?

What if the employee does have these opportunities but is still underperforming?

Do you have an escalating process for disciplinary action, starting with a verbal warning? It is something to consider. You should also come up with a performance improvement plan. In addition, it is important to document things, in case you might have to let the person go. This will help in the case the employee might file a lawsuit.