5 Best Ways To Deal With Underperforming Team Members As A Manager

5 Best Ways To Deal With Underperforming Team Members As A Manager

It’s no secret that employee performance can affect a team’s success. Hence, a manager must look into employees who are not living up to their potential, as a manager has to achieve optimum results with the help of the available workforce. Whether the team member is underperforming for personal reasons or because of poor team morale, it can be challenging to manage them effectively. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the different factors that can cause employee underperformance, as well as ways to help an underperforming employee improve their performance. We’ll also provide advice on how to talk to an underperforming employee to help them understand and appreciate your efforts. So if you’re looking for insight on handling a struggling team member, read on!

What is Employee Underperformance?

Underperforming team members are defined as those who are not meeting the expectations set by their managers. Depending on the situation, an employee’s performance may be considered subpar if they’re not meeting deadlines or quotas, turning in low-quality work or exhibiting poor behavior. In some cases, underperformance may happen due to a lack of motivation or effort on the part of the individual. In addition, underperforming team members can also be a drain on team morale. If everyone is working hard, but one person isn’t pulling their weight, the rest of the team may start to feel disgruntled. This can lead to lower productivity and less motivation overall.

What Causes Employee Underperformance?

Employee underperformance can be a significant issue and can harm the team and the company as a whole. To prevent this from happening, it’s essential to understand the causes of employee underperformance. There are a few different factors that can contribute to an individual’s underperformance – personal reasons (such as laziness or lack of discipline), environmental factors (such as poor work-life balance) or situational factors (like workload). Depending on the situation, any of these could be more influential than the others. Some of the most common reasons employee underperformance occurs are:

Stress And Burnout

Highly motivated employees often take up loads of work. At times, their workload may be untenable for an individual. Consequently, they won’t be able to perform well at their jobs as they are spread too thin across numerous tasks. When employees are overloaded with work, they may feel stressed and overwhelmed. Mental stress associated with the workplace can further destroy their potential. This can cause them to perform poorly as they can no longer focus on their tasks properly.

Employees Do Not Have Sufficient Competencies

Employees may be underperforming due to lacking the training to fulfil job-related responsibilities. If new employees are brought on board without the necessary training, they may struggle to understand the job and its requirements. They can make mistakes that could affect their team’s performance. The absence of clear direction or motivation from management can also lead to employee underperformance. Facing ambiguity in their work or no clear goalposts as to where they are headed can cause employees stress and confusion. When this happens, it becomes difficult for them to stay focused on their tasks and meet deadlines. As a result, they may start performing poorly.

Communication Gaps Within The Team

Poor communication is one of the most common causes of employee underperformance. When employees cannot effectively communicate their needs and concerns, they may feel suffocated. This can lead them to become inactive and disengaged from work. They will find it challenging to provide feedback or answer questions accurately as they won’t clearly understand what is being asked of them. In addition, ineffective communication can also cause tension in the team, which could further impede productivity levels among its members. When team members don’t understand what’s expected from them, it can lead to confusion and frustration among the team. Poor communication can also create a “communication gap, ” resulting in employee underperformance.

Lack Of Motivation & Unfavorable Experiences

When employees experience disengagement, a bad work experience can hurt their motivation. This makes it difficult for them to focus on tasks and achieve desired results. In some cases, this may lead to them becoming demotivated and disinterested in the job. Employees who are no longer interested in their work may find it hard to be productive or meet deadlines. Management must ensure all team members feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions so that everyone is motivated to work towards common goals. Some employees may be unmotivated due to low morale or poor working conditions.

Incompatibility With The Team’s Culture

Underperformance can be a result of a cultural misfit too. Employees might be unable to perform at their best when they are not comfortable being part of their team’s culture. Sometimes the environment in which a team is working can hurt employee productivity. If employees don’t feel comfortable with the culture or attitudes of their colleagues, they may find it difficult to focus and be motivated. This can lead to tension and conflict within the team. When this happens, it’s often hard for everyone involved to collaborate effectively and achieve results. A hostile or uncooperative work environment can also cause team members to underperform as they’ll become less committed and caring about their work. Along with these, there can be a few other reasons for employee underperformance that may go unrecognized. Sometimes, interpersonal issues with colleagues or managers can harm the employee’s ability to work. Otherwise, problems in the employees’ personal lives can affect their morale and motivation too! As a manager, you must know your employees and understand their concerns to ensure they can reach their full potential. After understanding the reasons, you will be able to help underperforming team members get back to higher levels again.

How To Deal With An Underperforming Employee?

Underperforming team members can be a drag on the team’s morale and productivity. However, with the right approach, management can resolve the issue and improve employee performance. Here are five simple ways to talk to an underperforming employee on your team:

Build Trust And Stay Approachable

Underperforming employees often feel like they can’t talk to their managers about the challenges they’re experiencing. However, building trust and staying approachable can open up communication channels for both sides. It’s also important to assure your underperforming employees that you are there to help them through their challenges. When talking with an underperforming employee, it’s important to provide feedback and listen carefully. This will allow them to share their thoughts and feelings without feeling defensive or criticized. Continue reading here How Can Managers Build Trust In Their Teams? Furthermore, genuine care will encourage employees to open up more and improve their performance. Underperforming employees often attribute their poor performance to external factors, such as the team or manager’s lack of support. Instead of assigning blame, it is important to provide encouragement and help them understand what they need to do for the situation to improve.

Try To Identify And Understand Issues Of Employees

Start by inviting the employee to a meeting to discuss their concerns and see if there is anything management can do to help them improve. One-on-one meetings can be a great way to do this. Make it clear that you are willing to listen and address any issues they have, no matter how small or insignificant they seem. Ask open-ended questions during the meeting to understand what’s happening inside the individual’s head. It will allow for better communication between both parties in the future! Take notes throughout the session so you understand why this particular employee is struggling and what you can do to help. It would be best if you do not make assumptions about the reason for the fall in their performance.

Explain Job Expectations Again

It is crucial to make sure that everyone understands their job role and the expectations of their position. This will help to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal and there are no misunderstandings about what’s expected from them. Underperforming employees may feel they have been given too much work or are required to do things beyond their current capability. It can be helpful for management to reiterate the job role expectations so there are no surprises down the road! Moreover, an employee might have assumed they are performing well due to misunderstanding the expectations. You can also provide examples to explain the needed efforts.

Enhance Engagement With The Employee

Ensuring that you are keeping up with the employee’s progress is essential to ensure their success. Once an evaluation is completed, it can be helpful for management to check in with the employee regularly so that they have an accurate understanding of where they stand and what needs to be done to improve. In addition, increasing employee engagement will help motivate them and keep them focused on their goals. This can go a long way towards ensuring they achieve satisfactory results. You can read more here to enhance engagement with employees in your team:

Help Them Overcome Challenges

If you notice that an employee is having difficulty meeting the expectations of their position, it can be helpful to provide them with support and guidance. This might include giving feedback on their work product or suggestions for how they could improve. By working alongside the individual, management can help to overcome any challenges and ensure that they successfully meet the expectations set forth by their job role. Further, a manager can adopt a coaching or mentorship style to help the employee overcome difficulties. They can also arrange training sessions and provide tools that help bridge the gap between skills required and the present. At times, it may be difficult for management to identify underperforming employees in the early stages. Still, by taking these simple steps, they can iron out any problems and regain their motivation!


When an employee underperforms, it can be challenging to know what to do. However, by following the steps outlined in this blog, you can get your team member back on track and perform at their best. First and foremost, it is essential to understand why the employee is underperforming in the first place. Next, you need to find ways to help that employee improve their performance. Finally, it is essential to have a conversation with the underperforming team member to discuss their thoughts and feelings. Doing these things can help your team member feel supported and motivated to reach their full potential. Thank you for reading!

Help employees improve performance with one-on-one sessions.

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How do you tell a team member they are underperforming?

Telling a team member that they are underperforming is a sensitive issue. Hence, a manager should do so in an appropriate context. A one-on-one catch-up or conversation can be one avenue. Moreover, explain to them the goals that were set for them and how they can improve performance in the next period. Keep an open mind and understand the situation from their perspective as well.

What to do if a team member is not contributing?

As a manager, it is important to ensure that your team performs well. If a team member is not contributing toward the goals, evaluate their performance and talk to them about it. It is best to keep the conversation specific and clear, while avoiding emotional tones. Explain the situation and be prepared to provide additional support once to get to know their side of the story as well.

How do you motivate an underperforming team member?

Some ways to motivate underperforming employees are:
– One-on-one catch-ups to evaluate and clear about performance
– Training and development opportunities
– Redefining goals and creating milestones using systems such as OKRs, etc.

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Author: Deeksha Sharma

Deeksha, with a solid educational background in human resources, bridges the gap between your goals and you with valuable insights and strategies within leadership development. Her unique perspectives, powered by voracious reading, lead to thoughtful pieces that tie conventional know-how and innovative approaches together to enable success for management professionals.

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