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How to Manage an Underperforming Staff Member

On18/ 04 /18
Being a manager isn’t an easy job. While most people seem to only notice the perks of the role (higher salary, more responsibility, increased respect amongst the lower-level employees), fulfilling the duties of a manager is often much more complicated – including managing staff and their performance. 

So, what’s the trick to managing an underachieving work colleague in a positive way?

Review What You Can Do

When recognising an employee who’s struggling to keep up, make sure you review your performance as a manager as well. Sometimes it’s really hard to get your head around everything, especially when it comes to busy times such as the New Year, when you need to be extremely focused to ensure that everything is running smoothly. 

On many occasions, you might find out that you haven’t offered an underachieving employee the attention they need. A first step should be regular one-to-ones and daily meetings to provide clear instructions and set the expectations. 

Speak to Them

Another first step is to start a dialogue and try to establish the source of the problem. Speculation will get you nowhere, so chat privately to them, initially to establish if everything is ok. External stressors such as family issues can often play a huge role in employee performance and a little compassion and understanding can go a long way.

This would also be a good time to check whether everything is ok in a work capacity, as harassment and workplace bullying are unfortunately present in some offices. 

Whatever the reason, be understanding and offer support. This can be done by working together to set performance KPIs and agreeing on a specific plan of action, including a clear time frame and deliverables. 


There is no better nudge in the right direction rather than inspiring your staff. According to Office Vibe, 78% of employees said that being recognised motivates them in their job, so make sure that you have your motivation plan in-place. If you need a few tips on what to do, read our guide on motivating your team.


The essential part of improving your staff performance is conducting regular reviews. It’s great to sit down with your team at regular intervals to go through what needs to be improved.

Research produced by Gallup, Inc. revealed that companies who implement regular feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than for employees who receive no feedback, so make sure that you speak to your team systematically in order to see if KPIs and working standards are being met.   


After a while, you might want to evaluate how your employee is performing. 

If an employee is still not showing his/her willingness and the standard of work remains unsatisfactory, you might want to think about taking the formal steps such as considering their future within your company.

If a member of your team showed a positive movement in their performance, remember about recognising it in order to encourage continued progress toward the agreed-upon goal. 

For more employer advice and tips, you can read our wide selection of blogs. Alternatively, why not browse our client area to find out more about how we successfully match candidates to the right roles. 
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