8 Actionable Steps to Manage Poor Performance at Work

8 Actionable Tips to Deal with Poor Work Performance

As supervisors and leaders, it can take up a huge chunk of our time and energy to deal with poor work performance from our employees. This is time we should be spending doing many other things that could be way more valuable to our team like building up strong performing employees or getting our work done. So how do we deal with these poor-performing employees? No method will guarantee you get these insubordinate employees where you want them but the steps in this article are a great start to getting these employees on track.

Continue reading for 8 steps to manage poor performance at work.

Definition of Insubordinate

Oxford’s definition of insubordinate is “defiant of authority; disobedient to orders.” Not all problem employees are insubordinate but insubordination in the workplace can be a huge issue. Not only does it cause poor employee performance with the insubordinate employee, but it can also cause many issues within the whole team. It’s imperative to deal with insubordinate employees as swiftly as possible before they cause a hostile work environment for everybody.

Steps to Manage Poor Performance at Work

1. Determine what the problem is with the employee.

This one may seem obvious to you but take some time to determine what the issue is that makes the employees poor employees. Is their work ethic lacking? Are they constantly showing up to work late? Is there friction between them and other team members? Do they just have a terrible attitude? Are they insubordinate or is there another problem? Finding out what causes poor employee performance is the first step in determining a solution.

Typically, the issue with a poor-performing or insubordinate employee boils down to a motivation issue, an ability issue, an attitude issue, or a mixture of those factors. These issues require different methods and actions to correct them. An ability issue may require more training or moving the employee to another job in the company that suits their abilities a little better. A motivation or attitude issue requires feedback and goals to increase employee engagement and get the employee up to at least a functional level. No matter what the problem is, communication is key.

2. Conduct good feedback with the poor-performing employee.

Image of boss, leader, supervisor, manager conducting feedback. A very important step in managing poor work performance.

Giving feedback to insubordinate employees that have caused you so much stress, can be tough but change must come to the poor employee performance. Many times, these employees are not even aware they are doing anything wrong. Feedback not only allows you to let the employee know what they are doing wrong but also allows you to determine why the employee is doing it that way.

These feedback sessions should be two-way communication with the employee. Not only is it important for them to listen to what you are saying but it is equally important to listen to what they say. Ideally, you want to agree with the employee on how they are going to improve their poor employee performance and get where you want them to be.

Make sure you also discuss with the employee what they are doing well so that continues. Follow-up feedback sessions are required regardless of whether the employee has changed their ways or not. Let them know what you see them trying on and what they still need to work on.

For more information on giving good feedback see my previous article The Importance of Feedback in the Workplace.

3. Ask the difficult employee what they need.

As a manager or supervisor, it is important to approach a poor-performing employee with empathy and understanding. One way to do this is to ask the employee what you can do to help them fix their poor work performance. This question shows the employee that you are taking responsibility for their performance and that you are committed to helping them improve.

When an employee is struggling, they may feel defensive or resistant to feedback or suggestions for improvement. By asking what you can do to help them, you are taking a collaborative approach and showing that you are there to support them. This can help to reduce defensiveness and create a more positive and productive conversation.

It is important to be prepared to follow through on any requests or suggestions that the employee may have. This could include providing additional training or resources, adjusting workloads or responsibilities, or addressing any issues or concerns that they may have. By taking action to support the employee, you are demonstrating your commitment to their success and helping to build trust and engagement.

Overall, asking an employee what you can do to help them improve their work performance is an important step in addressing poor performance. It shows that you are invested in their success and committed to helping them reach their full potential. By taking a collaborative approach and providing support and resources, you can help to create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone involved.

4. Document everything when you deal with underperforming employees.

When dealing with difficult employees, it is crucial to document everything, both positive and negative. This documentation can be a valuable tool when giving feedback to the employee, as it provides specific examples of their behavior or performance. This can help to make the feedback more concrete and meaningful, as the employee can see exactly what they are doing well or what they need to improve.

Documenting incidents can also be helpful if disciplinary action is necessary. By having a record of specific incidents or behaviors, you can provide evidence to support your decision to take action. This can be especially important if the employee challenges your decision or if the case goes to court.

In addition, documenting incidents and performance can be useful if the employee is terminated. Human resources may want to review the documentation to ensure that the termination was justified and in compliance with company policies and legal requirements.

It is important to be consistent in your documentation and to document both positive and negative incidents. This can help to create a more complete picture of the employee’s performance and can help to avoid any claims of bias or discrimination.

Overall, documenting everything when dealing with difficult employees is essential. It provides a valuable tool for giving feedback, can support disciplinary action if necessary, and can be useful if the employee is terminated. By keeping detailed records, you can help to ensure that you are making fair and informed decisions, and this can help to protect both the employee and the company.

5. Keep your emotions in check.

Image of employee being yelled at for having to deal with under performing employees.

When you deal with underperforming employees, it can be easy to get a little mad. No matter how bad your insubordinate employee is, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Confronting a difficult employee with anger rarely leads to any change. If you are both angry neither of you will hear anything the other party is saying, and things may be said which are not truly meant.

To see the biggest chance of your message hitting home, keep a calm level head even if the insubordinate employee starts to get a little upset at times. Showing anger in front of other employees can also send the wrong message to the rest of your team. As frustrating as these employees can be it is extremely important to keep your cool when dealing with them.

For more strategies on managing your emotions and dealing with stress at work click here.

6. Set clear goals to increase employees’ poor work performance.

Clear goals need to be set for these poor employees. It is best if you come to these goals together. You need to make sure the employee understands what is expected of them. This should be discussed during feedback sessions and reinforced often.

You want to make sure these goals are specific. Telling an employee that they need to work harder is not a good goal. Your goal should be something like, you need to increase your production by 50% within 2 weeks. Make sure the goals are achievable for the employee or you are setting both of you up for disappointment. Also, give them time to make the change. Typically, these changes don’t happen overnight, they take some time. You may have to exercise a little patience when dealing with problem employees.

7. Determine what motivates the poor-performing employees.

Image of a list of things that motivate employees can be used to motivate poor employees.

It is important to recognize that different employees are motivated by different things. As a manager or supervisor, it is important to understand what motivates each of your employees in order to get the best out of them and help them reach their full potential.

Some employees are motivated by rewards, such as monetary incentives or time off. These employees may work harder and be more productive if they know there is a tangible reward waiting for them.

Other employees may be motivated by public recognition or praise. These employees may work harder if they know that their efforts will be publicly acknowledged and appreciated.

Some employees may be self-motivated to do a good job. These employees may take pride in their work and be motivated by the satisfaction of doing a job well.

In some cases, employees may be motivated by power or influence. These employees may be motivated by the opportunity to make decisions and have a say in how things are done.

Depending on the line of work, employees may be motivated when they believe they are making a difference. For example, employees in a non-profit organization may be motivated by the impact they are making on the community.

Employees may also be motivated not to let their boss or their peers down. This can be especially true in team settings, where employees may feel a sense of accountability to their colleagues.

Finally, some employees may be motivated to not lose their job. These employees may work harder and be more productive if they know that their job security is at risk.

By understanding what motivates each employee, managers, and supervisors can tailor their approach to get the best out of each individual. This may involve providing different types of rewards or recognition or finding ways to tap into each employee’s unique motivations. By using this knowledge to help employees stay on track, managers and supervisors can create a more productive and engaged workforce.

8. Acknowledge and reward improvement.

It is important to recognize when difficult employees are making an effort to change their behavior or improve their performance. If their efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated, they may quickly become discouraged and revert back to their old ways.

Acknowledging the effort that these employees are putting in can be a powerful motivator. Something as simple as saying “good job” or “thank you for your hard work” can go a long way in boosting their morale and making them feel valued. By providing positive feedback, you can help to reinforce the behavior you want to see and encourage them to continue making progress.

When difficult employees receive positive affirmations for their work, they are likely to seek ways to improve further so they can receive more recognition. As they become more invested in their work, they may become more open to feedback and suggestions for improvement.

It is important to note that simply acknowledging their efforts may not be enough to turn these employees around. They may require additional support and guidance to help them overcome their difficulties. This may involve providing training, coaching, or counseling to help them develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

By recognizing and acknowledging the effort that difficult employees are putting in, managers and supervisors can create a more positive work environment and help these employees get back on track. By providing support and encouragement, they can help to build confidence and motivation, and help these employees reach their full potential.

Corrective Action Plan

manage poor performance

When you have an employee who is not performing up to standard, it’s time to take action. You can’t wait for the person to improve without help.

How to Make an Action Plan For Non-Performing Employees

To take the correct action, you need a plan. A corrective action plan consists of these steps:

  1. Identify the performance gap – The first and most important step of any corrective action plan is to identify the performance gap. This refers to the difference between expected behaviors and actual behaviors. For example, if you want your employees to submit expense reports on time, but they often turn them in late, there’s a gap between what you expect and what you get.
  2. Determine the cause of the gap in performance – Perhaps the employee doesn’t have the right skills or knowledge to complete the task. Maybe she has issues working with other employees or struggles with following procedures. By identifying the cause of the gap in performance, you can develop an appropriate plan to correct it.
  3. Create a solution for the problem – All the information you gathered in the previous steps will help you create a solution for the problem. Think about what solutions can be used to solve the problem and then determine which one will work best.
  4. Evaluate progress and make adjustments as needed – If there are any remaining issues, track them in the resolution plan and assign them to the responsible parties. If no further action is necessary, keep a record of how the issue was resolved. Evaluate how well the resolution plan worked and whether there are improvements that can be made in future plans.

In Summary

Dealing with problem employees can be a pain but firing them should always be a last resort. When you fire them, you are taking a gamble that you will find an employee that’s better than the one you just let go of. New employees also require training which takes time and costs money. The ideal way to handle poor employees is to get them to perform up to standards before letting it degrade into a hostile work environment for you and the rest of your team. Using these 8 strategies will help turn those underperforming employees around.

If you enjoyed this article on the steps to manage poor performance at work please don’t forget to share and subscribe below.

Milton Campbell

I'm passionate about personal and professional development. I started Growth Tactics to not only share the knowledge I've gained as a manager and leader but also improve my skills. My vision is to help people be the best versions of themselves. Let's grow together.

Is looking to hire people for entry level article writing posit. You can use their social media advertising tool to build strong campaigns and schedule posts. Leased line network example.