Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: May 29, 2023 101

101: Motivating underperformers

Underperforming employees don’t just cost companies time and money, they demoralize other employees, potentially impacting retention. But what should managers do to get underperformers to get their work up to snuff?

First, check in with others (and yourself) advises Joseph Weintraub and Jean-François Manzoni at Harvard Business Review. It’s possible there’s a mismatch in what managers and employees think is important when it comes to performance. “You may have contributed,” says Manzoni. “After all, it’s rare that it’s all the subordinate’s fault just as it’s rare that it’s all the boss’s.” Ask others confidentially if you are missing anything in your considerations: Perhaps a former supervisor or someone who has worked with this person. Manzoni suggests saying this: “I’m worried that my frustration may be clouding my judgment. All I can see are the mistakes he’s making. I want to make an honest effort to see what I’m missing.”

Reiterate job expectations, after documenting poor performance and getting the employee’s side of the story, says Andrea Boatman at “Make sure that the employee understands what you expect of them and the areas that require improvement. Instruct them on all the tasks involved, and the standard at which the employee should fulfill them … Often it is new hires who are uninformed about specific expectations,” she writes, especially if they aren’t clarified during the hiring process.

Seeing issues with more than one employee? It’s survey time. Underperformance in more than one member of a team could show the team needs additional training, according to Indeed’s Jennifer Herrity. “Send out an employee survey to identify areas where they lack confidence,” she writes. “If multiple responses mention that they want more daily direction, for example … Consider holding a morning meeting, checking on team members throughout the day, and providing feedback more often.”

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF