4 Ways to Turbo-Charge Your Underperforming Employees

By Sweta Srivastava


In every organisation, there is always a varying range of performers. Some are highly productive and efficient while some thrive to even complete their daily tasks at work. As a manager, you may be tempted to either ignore these employees or drop them from the company. You may feel that these employees are poor role models and encourage low-performance culture and sometimes stand in the way of growth of other talented employees. For a manager, it also involves too much energy to manage them and follow up with them. However, according to a survey  “fifty-two percent of exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving”. Hence, it is important to give them another chance to improve and motivate them by giving them opportunities to grow and be more engaged.

However, is it possible to motivate them unless they want to be motivated? I believe all you can do is to create situations and opportunities for such employees through which their inner motivation to work kick in naturally and channel it to achieving goals. Yes, the intrinsic motivation is what can encourage these employees to be more involved and actively participate in the workplace activities.

While this is no easy task to do as it requires an entirely different management strategy, through this piece of article, I want to suggest few points that can help you to remove some of the bottlenecks that may be responsible for holding these employees from performing well and giving their best to the organisation. These suggestions can also help you in understanding these employees and how to deal with such situations in future.

Identify The Causes

The first thing as a manager you need to understand is the reason behind the poor performance rate of your employee. It can be either lack of clarity on the job scope, and your expectations of them or lack of motivation to put in their efforts in the company due to any personal issues they are facing. Also, are they competent and skilled enough to do the job?

You can collect details of the unsatisfactory work, observe them on how much work they are doing. First, gather the information before having any conversation with that underperforming employee. Talk to his colleagues, supervisors, line managers in confidence. Also, consider if he has the skills required to do the job or is it your management style which is the problem? Maybe they have specific skills and have performed better in other kinds of projects earlier.

Once you see the problems from new angles, talk to your employee about what you have observed and provide them with your honest and explicit feedback. If they show interest and willingness to improve then create a plan for their improvement.


Be the Mentor And Guide Them

As a manager, it is your responsibility to guide these employees if they are going through a tough phase or having difficulty to work on a particular project but are willing to change their behaviour. However, you cannot force-feed them to do something if they are not committed to improving. It will be a waste of your resources. Therefore you need to assess their commitment to grow and perform better.

When you are introducing a new project to your underperforming employee, it is essential to have a discussion with him and get their feedback on the project, their suggestions and whether or not they are willing to work on it or not. It is important to observe their behaviour. Are they making excuses or claiming their performance to be adequate?

If they are providing valid reasons behind the issues they faced while doing their job like lack of adequate resources, managerial support or maybe they are not clear about their job scope, or perhaps someone else’s poor performance is affecting his work too.

When people reply honestly and sincerely it shows their commitment and seriousness towards the issue and how much they are willing to change.

If their reasons seem genuine, it is your job to create a plan explaining clearly your expectations, skills they will be required to perform their task efficiently and measure their performances.


Take Help Of Technology

You can introduce new technologies like gamification to measure the performance of your underperforming employees and assess their progress. It will also save some of your time too. For example in a gamified solution you can always check their daily inputs to a project by the points they have earned or the levels they are at currently. Is their ranking improving on the leaderboard?

You can also follow up with them through regular meetings. A good gamified solution can also allow you to connect with them through internal chat features if you are not physically present in the office all the time. You can always use technology to help you with it. It will also give an accurate figure to compare their past performances and their current performances. As a mentor, you can arrange for their training in case they are lacking any skill or guide them on the issues they are facing through regular follow-ups


Encourage and Appreciate When They Progress

When your underperforming employee starts showing the improvement in his performance, it is always good to appreciate their hard work and efforts. Appreciation and recognition can encourage them to perform even better in future, and they work harder towards improving their behaviour.

It also means that as a manager you have been successfully able to channel the skills of your underperforming employee to a more meaningful direction and changed their behaviour to help them grow and add value to the company.

If they keep showing consistent improvement in their performance and are trying their best, then they also deserve the rewards not just in the form monetary rewards but also some appreciation, recognition and maybe even a day off!


Motivating an underperforming employee is not going to be easy. It will be challenging, time- consuming with some risks involved as well. Some employees may respond positively and quickly to your approach, while others may not. However, in the end, it will provide you with a more productive and efficient team of employees and a healthier workplace environment.


Comments are closed