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  • Writer's picturebfulmer123

How to address underperformers

Underperformers can disrupt an otherwise productive workplace.

Addressing underperformers sooner than later is the key. As a leader, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for underperformers’ behavior to damage your team’s cohesiveness, your department’s deadlines or your credibility as a good leader.

The first step is recognizing the difference between counseling and coaching.

Counseling is…

- a face-to-face discussion with your employee with the objective of solving a performance problem or other problem 👉🏼related to on-the-job behavior👈🏼

- done as soon as you perceive that a problem exists to prevent it from becoming a bigger issue

Coaching is…

- designed to help an employee improve what he or she 👉🏼already knows how to do👈🏼

- a process where the coach observes the underperformer in action and gives immediate feedback

Counseling is typically the first step by the manager, followed by coaching.

When you are ready to schedule your counseling session it should be at your workplace and in person with plenty of time scheduled should additional time be needed.


· Recognize underperformance is not incompetence

· Remember poor performance is rarely a conscious choice (think of the risk they are taking with their job security)

· Don’t assume the employee knows there’s a problem

· Acknowledge if this is just a bad hire and take necessary steps

· Check in with team and make sure you have all the facts

· Be ready to backup logically the importance of the desired outcome

· Become clear on the minimum action you will accept, possible alternative solutions and when you expect performance to improve


· Be patient and empathetic

· Describe the problem in a nonthreatening manner

· Ask employee to help solve this issue

· Gain agreement that a problem exists

· Consider/discuss causes of the problem

· Establish next steps collectively

· Ask for employee’s help in resolution

· Agree on the action you each will take

· Create a performance improvement plan that gives both of you the opportunity to revisit the issue and establish a course of action with agreed upon timeline

· Commit to specific follow-up date


· Put performance processes and procedures in place to avoid future issues for all employees

· If no improvement is made, consult with your HR department as to the formal procedure they would like you to follow

· Recognize when the issue cannot be corrected, nothing more you can do, and let the employee go

· Maintain an open dialogue with your team to avoid delay in sharing a future coworker issue with you

· Learn from this experience

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