How to manage under performing employees and boost their efficiency: Top 7 strategies

11 min read
How to manage under performing employees and boost their efficiency: Top 7 strategies
How to manage under performing employees and boost their efficiency: Top 7 strategies

Imagine a pond where everyone contributes to keeping the water clean. Suddenly, one part of the pond starts accumulating stagnant water.

Soon, the once vibrant ecosystem starts suffering. This analogy perfectly illustrates the impact of underperforming employees on overall employee engagement.

Employee engagement, the emotional commitment employees feel towards their work and organization, thrives in an environment where everyone contributes their best.

However, the presence of underperforming individuals can disrupt this delicate balance, impacting not just the team's overall productivity and performance review but also the morale and engagement of other members.

This article will delve into the ways underperforming employees affect engagement, exploring the various factors at play.

What is an underperforming employee?

Employee feeling battery down in the workplace
What is an underperforming employee?

An underperforming employee is an individual within a workforce who fails to meet the expected standards of performance and productivity in their role.

The reasons for underperformance can vary and may include lack of skills, insufficient training, inadequate motivation, personal or mental health issues, or a poor fit between the employee's skills and the requirements of the job.

The signs of underperformance may include consistently missed deadlines, lower-than-expected quality of work, a lack of initiative, poor communication, and a failure to meet specific goals or targets. Addressing underperformance is crucial for the overall success of a team or organization, as it can impact productivity, morale, and the achievement of business objectives.

Employers typically handle underperforming employees by providing feedback, additional training or resources, setting clear expectations, and establishing performance improvement plans. In some cases, more serious interventions, such as disciplinary actions or termination, may be necessary if performance issues persist despite efforts to address them.

What causes employees to underperform?

Underperformance in employees can stem from various factors, and it's often a complex interplay of personal, organizational, and situational elements. Some common causes include:

  • Lack of skills or training: Employees may underperform if they lack the necessary skills or training to fulfill their job responsibilities. This could be due to inadequate onboarding, insufficient professional development opportunities, or changes in job requirements.
  • Poor work environment: A negative or unsupportive work environment can contribute to underperformance. Factors such as unclear expectations, lack of recognition, ineffective management, or a toxic workplace culture can demotivate employees.
  • Personal issues: Personal challenges, such as health problems, family issues, or financial stress, can impact an employee's ability to focus and perform well at work.
  • Mismatch of skills and job role: If there's a misalignment between an employee's skills and the requirements of their role, they may struggle to meet performance expectations.
  • Lack of motivation: Employees who feel uninspired, unengaged, or undervalued may show signs of underperformance. Recognition, rewards, and a sense of purpose can contribute to motivation.
  • Communication issues: Poor communication within the team or organization can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and a lack of clarity about expectations, which can result in underperformance.
  • Burnout: Overworking, excessive stress, and burnout can negatively impact an employee's well-being and performance. It may lead to fatigue, reduced focus, and decreased productivity.
  • Personal or professional development stagnation: Employees who feel stagnant in their personal or professional development may become disengaged and underperform. Lack of opportunities for advancement or skill growth can contribute to this.
  • Workload and expectations: Unrealistic workload or expectations can lead to stress and pressure, making it difficult for employees to perform at their best.
  • Health issues: Physical or mental health problems can significantly affect an employee's ability to perform well. Employers should be mindful of providing support and accommodations when needed.

What are the signs of an underperforming employee?

Employee being lazy at work
What are the signs of an underperforming employee?

Identifying signs of underperformance in employees is crucial for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. One clear indication employees underperform is consistently missed deadlines, suggesting a struggle to manage tasks efficiently.

A noticeable decline in productivity, either in terms of quantity or quality of work output, can also signal underperformance. Increased errors or mistakes may reflect a lack of attention to detail or focus, contributing to a negative impact on overall performance.

Additionally, a lack of initiative and reduced engagement in tasks or responsibilities may indicate disengagement or underlying performance issues. Poor time management, demonstrated by difficulties in prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines, is another sign that an employee may be struggling to perform effectively.

Communication problems, such as unclear expression of ideas or challenges in collaborating with colleagues, can further indicate poor performance or issues affecting teamwork.

Behavioral aspects, such as a negative attitude, resistance to change, or a decline in enthusiasm, may manifest as signs of underperformance. Employees who consistently resist taking responsibility for their actions, make excuses, or display an unwillingness to learn may be struggling to meet expectations.

Feedback from colleagues expressing concerns about an individual or team's performance, or collaboration issues can also be a valuable indicator.

Ultimately, it is essential for employers to proactively address these signs, providing constructive feedback, support, and opportunities for improvement.

Regular assessments of employee performance, open communication, and a commitment to addressing concerns promptly contribute to creating a positive atmosphere and an environment where underperforming employees can thrive and contribute effectively to the organization.

What is the impact of underperforming employees on other employees?

The impact of underperforming employees on their colleagues and the overall workplace can be significant and multifaceted.

Here are several ways in which underperforming employees can affect their coworkers:

Decreased morale

The presence of underperforming colleagues can lead to a decline in overall team morale. Team members may feel frustrated, demotivated, or disheartened when they perceive that others are not pulling their weight or meeting expectations.

Increased workload

Underperforming employees may require their colleagues to compensate for their shortcomings, leading to an increased workload for those who are performing at or above expectations. This additional burden can contribute to stress and potential burnout.

Impact on team productivity

The overall productivity of a team can suffer when one or more members consistently underperform. Projects may be delayed, goals may be unmet, and the other team member's ability to deliver results may be compromised.

Strained relationships

Colleagues may become frustrated with underperforming team members, leading to strained relationships within the workplace. This tension can hinder effective communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

Negative culture and attitudes

The presence of underperforming employees can contribute to a negative workplace culture. If high performance is not recognized or rewarded, it may foster a sense of complacency or a perception that mediocrity is acceptable.

Risk of talent drain

High-performing employees may become disenchanted if they feel their efforts are not recognized or if they consistently have to compensate for underperformance. This dissatisfaction could lead to turnover, risking the loss of valuable talent.

What are the 5 steps to managing the underperformance of staff?

Employer taking steps to the company's goal
What are the 5 steps to managing the underperformance of staff?

Here are five key steps to manage underperforming employees with a systematic and constructive approach.

1. Identify and understand the underperformance

  • Clearly define the specific areas where the employee is underperforming.
  • Gather relevant data, feedback, and performance metrics to support your assessment.
  • Identify any potential underlying causes such as lack of skills, training, motivation, or personal issues.

2. Provide constructive feedback

  • Schedule a private meeting to discuss the underperformance with the employee.
  • Present the feedback in a constructive and non-confrontational manner.
  • Clearly articulate the expectations, the observed performance gaps, and the impact on the team or organization.
  • Encourage open communication, allowing the employee to share their perspective and any challenges they may be facing.

3. Develop a performance improvement plan (PIP)

  • Collaboratively create a detailed Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.
  • Clearly outline the steps the employee needs to take to improve their performance.
  • Identify resources, training, or support that can aid in the improvement process.
  • Set regular checkpoints to review progress and make adjustments as needed.

4. Provide support and resources

  • Offer the necessary support, resources, and training to help the employee meet the outlined goals.
  • Ensure that the employee has access to the tools and information needed to improve their skills or address any identified issues.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to the employee's success and well-being.

5. Monitor progress and provide ongoing feedback

  • Regularly monitor the employee's progress against the goals outlined in the PIP.
  • Provide ongoing feedback, recognizing improvements and addressing any setbacks.
  • Adjust the PIP as needed based on evolving circumstances or additional information.
  • Celebrate successes and offer positive reinforcement to motivate continued improvement.

How does low performing employees affect employee engagement?

Employees are hi-fying each other in the workplace
How does low performing employees affect employee engagement?

Low-performing employees can have a detrimental impact on overall employee engagement within an organization.

Firstly, their subpar performance may create a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction among high-performing colleagues who may feel compelled to compensate for the underperformance.

This added workload and stress can contribute to a decline in morale, negatively affecting the engagement of top performers.

Moreover, the presence of someone managing underperforming employees or colleagues may lead to a perception of inequity, where employees who consistently deliver at a high level may feel undervalued or overlooked. This perception can erode trust and commitment, key components of employee engagement.

Additionally, underperforming employees may disrupt teamwork and collaboration, hindering the positive interactions and shared successes that typically contribute to a vibrant and engaged workplace.

The lack of initiative and motivation from low-performing individuals can create a negative atmosphere, further impacting the overall engagement of the team.

Ultimately, addressing underperformance is not only about the job expectations and improving individual contributions but also about preserving a positive and supportive work environment.

By doing so, organizations can safeguard employee engagement, fostering a culture that promotes productivity, collaboration, and satisfaction among all team members.

Top 7 strategies to improve employee skills of underperforming employees

Employer are discussing on their next objective
Top 7 strategies to improve employee skills of underperforming employees

Improving the skills of underperforming employees requires a targeted and supportive approach.

Here are seven strategies to identify underperforming employees and help enhance their skills and performance:

1. Assessment and identification

Conducting a comprehensive assessment is the foundational step in addressing underperformance. By closely examining an employee's performance, managers can pinpoint specific areas where skills are lacking.

This involves a detailed analysis of their work, performance metrics, and feedback from colleagues or clients.

A clear understanding of the skills and competencies required for the role provides a benchmark against which to measure improvement.

2. Customized training programs

Tailored training programs are instrumental in addressing identified skills gaps. These programs should be designed to meet the unique needs of each underperforming employee.

Whether through workshops, online courses, or other learning methods, customization ensures that the training aligns with the specific skills required for the role.

Flexibility in the training approach accommodates diverse learning styles and preferences.

3. Individualized development plans

Collaboration is key when crafting individualized development plans. Managers and employees work together to set clear, achievable goals. These plans outline the necessary steps and milestones for skill enhancement over a defined timeframe.

Establishing mutual agreement on the development plan fosters ownership and commitment from the underperforming employee.

4. Mentorship and coaching

Pairing underperforming employees with mentors or coaches is a powerful strategy. Seasoned professionals can offer guidance, share experiences, and provide constructive positive feedback often.

Mentorship relationships focus on not only improving specific skills but also on overall professional growth. Regular interactions between mentors and mentees contribute to a supportive learning environment.

5. Regular feedback and check-ins

Continuous feedback is vital for the success of skill improvement initiatives. Regular check-ins provide opportunities for managers to offer constructive feedback on progress.

These sessions are a forum for discussing challenges, celebrating successes, and making any necessary adjustments to the development plan. Open communication during hiring process is crucial to maintaining a positive and transparent process.

6. Skill-building workshops and seminars

Organizing workshops and seminars on skill-building contributes to a broader approach in addressing deficiencies.

These events may cover a range of relevant topics and can involve external experts or trainers who bring specialized knowledge. Exposure to diverse perspectives enhances the underperforming employee's skill set and encourages a culture of continuous learning.

7. Peer collaboration and learning

Promoting peer collaboration and learning fosters a culture of knowledge-sharing within the team. Employees can share expertise and insights with one another through organized sessions.

Peer-to-peer learning complements formal training programs by providing real-world examples and practical advice. This collaborative approach reinforces a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility for skill development.

How to create a retention program for underperforming employees and why should you do it?

Employer retaining employees with giant horse shoe magnet
How to create a retention program for underperforming employees and why should you do it?

Creating a retention program for underperforming employees involves a strategic and empathetic approach. Firstly, it's essential to identify the underlying issues contributing to their performance challenges.

Through a thorough assessment that includes feedback from various sources, such as managers and colleagues, pinpoint the specific areas requiring improvement, whether related to skills, motivation, or other factors.

Once the issues are identified, provide constructive feedback to the underperforming employee, clearly communicating performance expectations and areas for development.

Collaborate with the top manager and employee to create an individualized improvement plan, setting clear and achievable goals with a defined timeframe. Offer targeted training and skill development opportunities to address the identified gaps, ensuring the employee has access to relevant resources and support.

Regular one-one-ones are crucial for monitoring progress, discussing challenges, and making necessary adjustments to the improvement plan. Recognize and reward incremental improvements to reinforce positive behaviors and motivate continued efforts.

Foster a supportive work environment that encourages continuous learning and development, emphasizing the organization's commitment to investing in the growth of its employees.

Implementing a retention program for underperforming employees is crucial for several reasons. It signifies an investment in existing talent, demonstrating a commitment to helping employees succeed and grow within the organization.

This approach can be more cost-effective than frequent recruitment and onboarding, contributing to overall cost savings.

Moreover, it fosters a positive workplace and company culture, preserves valuable institutional knowledge, builds employee loyalty and trust, and ultimately enhances organizational performance by improving the skills and contributions of the workforce.

How can pulse surveys help employees in skill development?

Employee standing next to giant clipboard and a pet stand
How can pulse surveys help employees in skill development?

Pulse surveys play a crucial role in aiding employees' skill development by providing timely and targeted feedback.

These brief and frequent surveys, conducted at regular intervals, allow organizations to gauge and track employee sentiments, identify specific skill gaps, and tailor development initiatives accordingly.

Firstly, pulse surveys serve as a dynamic feedback mechanism, enabling employees to express their needs and preferences regarding skill development.

By directly involving employees in the feedback process, organizations gain insights into the specific areas where they feel they lack proficiency or require additional training.

Secondly, the real-time nature of pulse surveys allows organizations to swiftly respond to emerging skill challenges. Immediate feedback can guide the creation of agile and adaptive skill development programs that align with current demands, ensuring that employees receive the most relevant training opportunities.

Furthermore, pulse surveys contribute to a culture of continuous improvement and learning. Regular check-ins on employee skill development foster an environment where employees perceive professional growth as an ongoing and supported aspect of their roles.

This approach promotes engagement, motivation, and a sense of investment to engage employees in their personal and professional development.

In essence, pulse surveys act as a catalyst for personalized and responsive skill development initiatives, fostering a workforce that is equipped with the capabilities needed for both current and future challenges.


Fostering employee growth and addressing underperformance through strategic retention programs is paramount for the sustained success of an organization. By identifying and understanding the root causes of underperformance, organizations can tailor individualized improvement plans that prioritize targeted skill development.

Retaining underperforming employees through skill enhancement initiatives not only demonstrates an investment in existing talent but also leads to substantial cost savings compared to frequent recruitment efforts.

This approach fosters a sense of loyalty, trust, and engagement among employees, reinforcing the employer-employee relationship. The preservation of institutional knowledge and the creation of an environment that supports professional growth contribute to a workforce that is not only skilled but also motivated and committed.

Ultimately, the success of a retention program hinges on creating a workplace where individuals feel valued, supported, and equipped with the tools to excel. In doing so, organizations pave the way for a resilient and empowered workforce capable of meeting the challenges of an ever-evolving professional landscape



Abhinaya is a Content Marketing Intern with a passion for creative writing and literature. She immerses herself in books and enjoys binge-watching her favourite sitcoms.