Talk to Spectra today 0161 926 8519


Talk to Spectra today 0161 926 8519

Managing poor performance – Dos and Don’ts

When it comes to poor performance, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope that things improve on their own. In our experience this never happens, it’s best if you act quickly before things get even worse. If your car isn’t firing on all cylinders you speak to the experts and get it booked in for a check-up as soon as you can. You don’t run it into the ground and ignore the warning signs that something is wrong. Similarly, when your employees are underperforming, the starting point should always be to take action quickly before there’s a total breakdown and you and your business are left stranded.

Has your employee run out of fuel? Or maybe they don’t know what direction they should be heading?

Managing a team means managing people, not robots, which means that work-life isn’t always predictable. Hopefully, overall you will be impressed with your team’s performance and productivity levels. When you are, call this out, a simple thank you can go a long way to making people feel valued and we all like to feel appreciated.

Employee performance is widely viewed as the confluence of ability and motivation. An employee needs to have the ability to perform the task, as well as the motivation to do so. Figuring out the cause of the performance problem can help you decide how to address it, a case of can’t do versus won’t do.

Where do you begin when tackling poor performance?

The best place to start is to try and deal with issues informally. Grab a coffee, sit down with the employee and explain the situation, and have some examples to hand of where the employee has been falling short. Talk about support the business can provide, it might be a training need. Are they clear on what is being asked of them? Have they got clear objectives? If they haven’t it just makes the job of monitoring performance a lot more difficult down the line.

What if that doesn’t work?

If you have tried the softer approach to no avail, it may be time to be a little more formal and begin monitoring the employee. Introduce a performance improvement plan by setting some short-term objectives to help them turn things around. In every case you should:

  • Provide support throughout the process
  • Set SMART objectives
  • Keep clear and consistent documentation of the feedback you are giving


It is important to approach your underperforming employee carefully and each case will be different. There may be personal issues going on behind the scenes. If an employee is consistently underperforming it might be that they disengaged or feel that they are being left out. It is important to go into the discussion with an open mind and a genuine desire to help them improve. A calm and considered approach should encourage your employee to open up.

Take actions if things don’t change

Under UK employment law, it is acknowledged that a company may not be able to retain an underperforming employee. In these circumstances, the business needs to ensure protocols are being followed when considering the implications for the employee.

Sanction an employee

If your employee still fails to improve to the required standard, then you need to take formal action in order to manage the impact. In the first instance, a formal warning should outline the improvements that are needed and the timeframe for these to be met. Eventually, if your employee does not improve and heed the formal warnings then you will be left with no option but to dismiss them.

Dismissing an employee should be the last resort and it is important to be fair and consistent in your approach. If you are unsure, about how to tackle an issue then it’s important to seek qualified HR guidance.

What next?

If you’d like to know more, we are running a Managing Investigations and Disciplinaries, CPD Accredited course this December in Altrincham. You can find all the information including how-to book on the following link:

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