How To Communicate With Underperformers Regarding Poor Work Performance

Managers must empower their employees to perform as expected. Oftentimes, understanding an individual’s personal motivations is critical to reviving an underperforming employee, team, or company. Never underestimate the value of genuine face-to-face communication as a gateway to positive and consistent work performance.


Begin your conversation by inquiring of the underperformer, “How do you feel you performed?” It is critical to understand the individual’s motivations before highlighting their lack of success.

If the underperformer believes they are already doing an excellent job, you can be certain they have either misunderstood the objectives and what they are expected to accomplish, or they are completely out of step with what is required.

If you inquire, “How do you believe you performed this year?” And they declare, “I believe I performed admirably.” “All right, if you believe you performed admirably, could you explain or simply share with me your thoughts on what occurred?” [Inserting a specific month or a specific project that did not go well]

Listen objectively to the underperformers’ side of the storey and make no attempt to convince them otherwise. Simultaneously decide whether their reasoning is valid or not. Then you can explain openly to them why you disagreed with them.


When people perform poorly at work, personal issues frequently get in the way. Either they have a personal beef with you, another employee, or their team.

They may even be bringing an external personal matter into the workplace in some instances. This is especially true for individuals who lack education, life experience, or a stable home environment. Often, they are overwhelmed and unable to cope with life in general. Unresolved personal issues can undoubtedly impair an individual’s performance.

Additionally, from a manager’s perspective, there is the motivation factor to consider. It is prudent to make an attempt to comprehend your staff’s personal concerns. You want to understand so that when you do place demands on your staff, you are aware of their capabilities and limitations.

You can encourage your employees to forget about their personal problems outside of work and actually be able to escape them by focusing on work. If they are still unable to let go, you must sit down with them and assist them in making a decision about how to best address their personal challenges.


Oftentimes, people have an idea of how to resolve their problems but have no one to confide in. If you take the time to listen to your employees, it is nearly impossible for them to perform poorly simply because they believe they are working with someone who genuinely cares about them.

By taking the time to truly understand people’s personal motivations, you can be extremely successful at turning around underperformers, underperforming departments, and even underperforming companies.

Create one-hour time slots for each staff/team member at least once a year to have an honest conversation and invest the time in assisting them in setting their short and long term career goals. It is prudent to schedule the one-on-one sessions six months prior to their annual appraisal.

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