Termination Isn’t the Only Way to Handle an Underperforming Team Member

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re struggling with how to handle an underperforming employee, don’t assume that termination is your only option. We all know it’s expensive and difficult to replace an existing employee. You may be able to save yourself time and money by training your underperformer and coaching them on how to be more engaged.

When you’re ready to address the situation, don’t assume you know why the employee’s not getting their work done. Schedule a conversational one-​on-​one meeting. As a manager, you don’t want to get into an adversarial situation. You also don’t want your employee to feel threatened in any way. Employees who feel insecure or extremely worried are likely to take a passive-​aggressive stance. They’ll tell you anything they think you want to hear, and then they’ll revert to their usual job performance.

Your ultimate goal is to get the employee to do more and/​or better work. With that goal in mind, let your employee know that you’ve noticed certain tasks aren’t getting done in a timely manner. Ask about roadblocks they’re encountering. Then, listen. The answers you get can serve as a map for how to proceed.

If the employee can’t finish a task because they’re waiting for someone else to complete a related task, review the entire work process. Implement process improvements to help everyone work more efficiently.

If the employee confesses they aren’t confident in their ability to do the task, invest in skill development. You don’t have to personally train the employee, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on expensive courses. But, you can show that you care by finding and making the tools available for them.

If the employee believes their work doesn’t matter, take time to show them how they fit into the organization, says Perri Grinberg in a recent SmartBrief article. You might also want to talk with them about their career path. Once an employee understands that they can play a larger role in the organization, they may work harder. After they show initiative and improve their performance, add new responsibilities to their position.

Going through this process will help you maximize your employee’s potential and develop your management skills.