Tips for Managing an Underperformer
Most managers have probably had to deal with at least one underperformer in the past year. And while some people might put up with less-than-ideal performance, that’s not an option for managers who believe in accountability and equality within the workplace.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips for managing an underperforming employee, according to pain management specialist Jordan Sudberg.
1. Understand the poor performer’s point of view.
No one starts out wanting to be a rotten employee, especially one who’s failed to meet his or her own sick days or productivity goals for years, but the pain and suffering that underperformers experience can easily cause them to feel like they’ve been abandoned or betrayed.
“When an employee is injured on the job and is unable to work, it’s very easy for them to feel unappreciated for the work that they did provide in the past,” Jordan said. “They may feel like no one cares that they’ve been out of work for six months, especially when their manager has been asking them about their progress with returning to work every day.”
2. Start by taking an active interest in what’s going on with your underperformer.
It’s very tempting to focus on what you expect from an underperformer, but it’s more productive to focus on the tasks that he or she has yet to complete. For example, suppose the issue is a medical issue. In that case, Jordan Sudberg recommends sitting down with the employee and asking them how they’re feeling and if they have any concerns about returning to work.
3. Encourage the underperformer to set his or her own return-to-work goals.
“For many underperformers, the motivation to return to work comes more from within themselves than from their managers,” Jordan said. “If he or she is to heal on their terms, it’s critical that you offer them autonomy.”
4. Don’t try to force the employee back into a job before he or she is ready.
It’s crucial that you’re proactive in supporting your underperformer, not reactionary. For instance, if you suspect that an employee needs more time to heal after an injury, “you should do everything you can to encourage them along this path,” Jordan said.
5. Be patient and understanding with your underperforming employee.
“It’s very easy for people to be resentful of their employers when they’re unable to perform their jobs,” Jordan explained. “That resentment can lead to employees becoming underperformers and even worse, it can lead them to become injured again.”
6. Consider offering a paid internship.
If the employee is struggling to keep up with the demands of a full-time schedule, Jordan recommends offering a part-time internship that can help him or her get back on track in a less pressurized environment.
“An internship is a great way to give an underperformer the space he needs to get back up to speed without having too much stress placed on him,” Jordan said. “If they’re able to maintain normal working hours and work on tasks that are more proactive, they’ll be able to build their resilience.”
7. Listen to what your underperformer has to say.
It can be very tempting to think that you’re doing everything you can to support your employee, but sometimes, he or she may be able to provide you with important information if you simply let them talk.
“It’s critical that you give your underperformer the chance to voice their concerns and opinions, even if you don’t agree,” Jordan said. “When you listen to what they have to say, it not only shows that you care about their well-being, but it also ensures that they feel like they have a voice on the issues of their job performance.”
8. Consider conducting an exit interview with your underperformer.
Please don’t make the mistake of assuming that an employee is unhappy simply because he or she is underperforming. If you’re concerned about his or her state of mind, Jordan recommends conducting an exit interview to find out if he or she feels like they want to continue working for your team.
“If you see that the employee wants out of the job, be sure to try and work through it,” Jordan said.
“Underperforming employees can be difficult to manage, but with some understanding and creativity, you’re able to provide adequate support for them.”