Battling The Signs of Underperformance In The WorkPlace


Human resources teams and managers face several challenges when maintaining decorum and smooth functioning in a workplace. Some of these include adapting to the hybrid work model, prioritizing the well-being of employees, creating strategies that promote productivity as well as harmony within teams and more. One of the most common of these challenges is dealing with the signs of underperformance at the workplace.

What is underperformance in the workplace?

Underperformance is when an employee fails to reach the goals and expectations set for their standards and does not provide the required results, which in turn hinders the progress of work. An underperforming employee would generally be working less than what was agreed upon on the contract and have low productivity rates. You can easily identify underperformance by keeping a few simple checks in place including missed deadlines, absenteeism, low motivation, customer feedback, and employee evaluation.

Causes of underperformance in the workplace

Addressing poor performance at work can be quite a challenge and if left unattended can have an adverse impact on productivity. An underperforming employee could be affected by several factors that lead to poor performance and could be unintentionally underperforming. Here are a few reasons why your employee could be performing poorly.

  • Capabilities and skillsetThere could be a mismatch in the responsibilities assigned to an underperforming team member and his/her qualification and specialization. The employee’s strengths may not be put to much use in their current role or he/she could be overwhelmed by the responsibilities assigned to them. This issue can be rectified through periodic employee and skillset analyses, and behavioral assessments.
  • Communication issuesLack of communication or discrepancy in communication is one of the most common causes of underperformance in a workplace. This can easily be fixed through simple strategies to maintain transparency and regular updates on the tasks at hand via discussion forums and meetings that focus on building better relationships amongst the employees. The strategies need to cater to improving communication within teams as well as across the various hierarchical levels within the organization.
  • Low motivationThis is one of the areas of underperformance in the workplace that generally occurs with employees who have stayed with the organization for some time. It could be that they have lost interest in their work, are expecting better pay or a more senior position, or lack encouragement from the management. It could lead to fatigue, self-doubt, dissatisfaction, or stress, directly affecting their performance at work.
  • Lack of trainingEmployees need to be able to adapt and constantly learn to perform better. Some of them may require additional training to enhance their capabilities. A training survey would help identify the strengths and weaknesses of an employee and understand the management of underperformance in the workplace. Providing suitable training based on the individual’s assessment is an easy way to reduce the signs of underperformance.
  • Personal issuesIf an employee is facing a personal crisis, it is highly probable that the circumstance has an effect on his/her work-life balance. This can disturb their focus and concentration on work and lead to fatigue. Even strained interpersonal relationships between employees can be a reason for underperformance at work. Simple resolutions like financial support or flexibility in working style can drastically help improve poor performance in the workplace and encourage them to work better.
How to manage underperformance in the workplace?

Some of the most evident indicators of underperformance in the workplace are:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Steering away from company culture
  • Not being a part of the team
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Other employees have to chip in at the last minute to ensure the task is completed
  • Absenteeism, poor attitude, and other disciplinary issues

Dealing with underperformance in the workplace, though challenging, can be tackled through some tactical strategies. Some of the simple ways to manage the diverse effects of underperformance in the workplace are listed below:

  • CommunicationOne of the easiest actions to take to deal with underperformers is to simply have an open conversation. This includes patient and active listening to figure out the problems that the underperformer is facing, which are affecting their performance. You will also need to explain to the employee about your expectations from his/her work and find effective solutions to bridge the gap between the expectations and their capabilities. An empathetic conversation with the underperformer not only sheds light on their issues but also builds a better relationship with the employee, in turn earning loyalty and better results.
  • TrainingAfter you identify potential areas of underperformance in the workplace, you could ensure the underperformer receives personalised training. Assigning a mentor—a manager or a stronger performer in the team—would be your best bet. Not only will the training be more effective, but the trainer can also keep track of the progress of the individual and quickly cater to their needs to ensure improvement.
  • Setting GoalsSet performance goals factoring in the underperformer’s skills through techniques like SMART ( Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Make an action plan with the underperformer’s inputs that he/she would find easier to adhere to. Make sure to tie these goals to the employee’s personal goals and interests so that they stay motivated and driven to perform better.
  • FeedbackMake sure to provide feedback on a regular basis so that the improvement is gratified and the challenges are addressed. This also creates an opportunity for the employee to openly discuss their difficulties and faster solutions can be found to achieve enhanced results. Be sure to acknowledge the improvements so that the employee is encouraged to continue working well.

While underperformance is an inevitable issue in every organization, the solutions are easy to execute. Be sure to implement strategies for poor performance management almost immediately for smooth operations. It’s also important to be empathetic towards underperforming employees to achieve improvement.