3 Strategies for Handling Employees with Poor Performance

Handling employees with poor performance is something that most bosses tend to shy away from. And we get that: No one really wants to bring on a tough conversation or a negative experience.

But as a leader, it’s up to you to do what you can to help your team succeed, even if that means having a difficult meeting to find out what’s wrong. In the long run, your team member and the team as a whole will be better off.

Keep the following strategies in mind for getting to the bottom of a performance issue with an employee:

1. Provide Frequent Feedback

Managing and supporting the individual contributors on your team is all about feedback. When an employee’s performance has become a problem, it pays to take a moment to think about what kind of feedback they get and have gotten in the past.

If this employee doesn’t receive feedback on their work regularly, they could be performing poorly because they don’t know what you expect of them, and that’s totally on you. If this is the case, check out our article on the best way to approach feedback.

Bonus Tip: When an employee’s resource lifeline drops off (you!), you can expect a correlating drop in performance. Keep tabs on employees who are taking on new responsibilities and make sure that you’re readily available to provide them with the resources they need to manage their step up.

2. Check Expectations

Talking is one thing, but mutually listening and understanding is another. You need to look for evidence that you and the employee have the same expectations of how they should be performing. Did they sign something or respond to an email about their latest responsibilities?

With the most recent proof you have of discussing expectations top of mind, ask the employee what they think their job deliverables are and listen carefully to their response. The employee will either have the:

  • Same expectations as yours, in which case you’ll need to address the fact that they’re not being met.
  • Different expectations from yours, which means you should let them know that their expectations aren’t lining up with yours and that this needs to be adjusted.


Strong interpersonal and communication skills are a crucial part of accelerating one’s performance. If this employee is someone on your team that you really value but suspect needs some training to meet your expectations, Arden can help. Download our eBook on how your team can benefit from sharpening these key skills.

3. Ask Questions

The easiest way to find out more information about why an employee is having trouble is to ask them about it. Instead of coming across like their work is being questioned, though, try to get a temperature reading instead by asking if any projects have been posing a challenge or how they’ve been feeling outside work.

For all you know, this team member could be dealing with a sick spouse or an issue at home that has them completely distracted from their duties. Or they might be having trouble with a colleague who isn’t holding up their end of responsibility on a project.

However you go about structuring these conversations, make sure that your questions come from a helping place and not an interrogative one.

3 Ways to Lend a Helping Hand

With these strategies in play, helping the members of your team understand what you expect from them, work through a rough time, and all-around better balance their duties can make a world of difference to them personally and the team as a whole.