February 5, 2018

Five Steps for Dealing with Difficult or Underperforming Employees

Poor attitude, poor behaviour, poor standards of work and high levels of absence are the most common issues our clients have with their employees.

One underperforming employee could be costing the company as much as 20% of their annual salary, and having just one underperforming employee can lower moral within the rest of the workforce, affect your relationships with customers and damage the company reputation.

So here are five simple steps to help you manage under performing employees and reduce the impact they can have on your organisation.

1. Tackle issues as they happen

As soon as you become aware that an employee is not meeting your required standards you must take action. A delayed reaction or no reaction at all could be viewed as condoning the behaviour or not taking it seriously.

Minor, day-to-day performance issues should be dealt with informally.

2. Identify what behaviour is causing the employee to underperform

Identifying issues at any early stage can prevent problems from escalating and causing further problems in the future, so allow the employee every opportunity to explain their underperformance.

Establish whether there are any underlying reasons for the poor performance which could be related to disability, health, or perhaps family/personal problems outside of work.

If necessary, provide the employee with additional support, supervision and training.

3. Set clear targets

Let the employee know exactly what they need to do to improve their performance.

Often managers water down the facts for fear of upsetting the employee. They often end the confrontation with something like: “…but overall, you’ve really been doing a great job.”

The problem is people choose to hear what they want to hear, so employees latch onto such comments and leave the meeting thinking they just got praised.

So put the targets in writing, and include a timescale of how long they have to improve. Ensure you advise the employee of the possible consequences if they fail to improve by the set date.

4. Monitor progress

Ensure that you continue to monitor their performance against the set targets. Meet with the employee frequently and note their progress, and use the targets set as the basis for each review meeting.

Highlight areas where the employee has improved and, if you have still have concerns, explain in detail what they are and how they need to improve.

When performance problems persist or escalate these should then be dealt with on a formal basis. Ensure you follow a fair procedure, as defined in your company capability procedure.

5. Don’t be afraid to dismiss

The main aim of the process is to improve performance; however, it is reasonable to dismiss an employee who is not meeting your required standards as long as you have followed a fair and legal procedure.

More guidance on the latest HR & employment law legislation

Further advice and support for Moorepay customers

If you would like to develop a capability policy, or have an employee who is underperforming, call our Advice Line on 0845 073 0270 (selecting option 2) for specific guidance tailored to the individual case.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.