Nine Ways Managers can Motivate Underperforming Employees

Last Updated: 

April 16, 2024

Employees can be a company’s greatest asset or the most significant liability depending upon their willingness to work and loyalty towards the company. Unfortunately, some employees do the bare minimum to get a stable paycheck but aren’t motivated to do more. All of this results in workplace underperformance, where the employee’s quality of work has decreased to a certain level. Beyond understanding the reasons for underperformance, managers can enhance their approach by engaging in motivational skills corporate training. This training can provide them with advanced techniques and insights into employee motivation, equipping them with the tools needed to inspire and uplift their teams effectively.

The impact of underperforming employees will majorly impact the performance of your company. Therefore, it is essential to have people on your team who get work done effectively and efficiently. Furthermore, the manager’s primary responsibility is to create a positive working environment.

Key Takeaways on Ways Managers Can Motivate Employees:

  • Address the Issue Head-On: Promptly recognise and address underperformance through 1-on-1 meetings to understand and assist the employee.
  • Recognise and Meet Employee Expectations: Understand and strive to meet employees' expectations related to their job and career, and communicate clearly if certain expectations cannot be met.
  • Develop an Action Plan Together: Collaborate with the employee to create a mutually beneficial action plan with specific benchmarks and support resources.
  • Schedule Regular Check-Ins and Follow-Up: Continuously monitor the employee's progress through regular meetings, offering guidance and support.
  • Recognise and Appreciate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate small wins to boost the employee's confidence and motivation.
  • Provide Appropriate Feedback: Offer constructive and honest feedback, focusing on a few issues at a time, and highlight the positive impact of their progress.
  • Document the Process: Keep records of all decisions, conversations, and progress related to the employee's performance for accountability and reference.
  • Take the Final Call if No Improvement: If the employee fails to improve despite multiple opportunities, consider reassignment or termination as necessary.
  • Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Promote a balance between work and personal life to prevent burnout and maintain motivation.

These takeaways provide a comprehensive approach for managers to effectively motivate and support underperforming employees, aiming to transform them into productive team members.

Discover Real-World Success Stories

Why do employees underperform?

Underperforming Employees

Underperformance is a problem that a company faces from time—to—time. Unfortunately, no two reasons are ever the same and, therefore, make it difficult for managers to provide solutions for the same. However, knowing the reasons for the same can help formulate solutions ahead of time so that productivity is not hindered. The common reasons why employees underperform are:

  1. Lack of skills: It is more common than accepted that many employees think they are not fit for the job, especially when having the skills needed to get the task done. Some may be capable enough, but they don’t know how to put their skills into practicality. 
  2. Unclear expectations: Quite often, employees feel the burden of meeting up to the expectations of their boss/team leader. They may be motivated for the job but may be unsure of what exact outcome is required of them. Exceptional managers need to be transparent about their expectations from their team. 
  3. Job dissatisfaction: Sometimes, the job role may not turn out to be the way it was portrayed. Employees then have every right to be dissatisfied and not take the initiative towards completing tasks. 
  4. Stressful work environment: People cannot operate to the best of their capabilities amid high—tension work. Added stress can significantly impact the performance of employees. 
  5. Inadequate training and development opportunities: Companies should provide training and development opportunities to better employees' performance. Without added options, they can feel restrictive at their work and demotivated to perform in a better way. 
  6. Cultural differences: Each individual has different working styles and work values. If they are challenged at work, employees may not relate to the working culture at the company. 
  7. Personal issues: Maintaining a good work—life balance is a must, but sometimes personal problems affect the overall working of a human being. Without proper counseling and guidance, employees may lose track of their responsibilities in life, especially at their workplace. 

How can managers motivate underperforming employees?

A hidden task that a manager is supposed to deal with is motivating underperforming employees. Here are 12 proven methods to effectively deal with employees that lack motivation and working below expectations:

1. Address the Issue Head-on

How can managers motivate underperforming employees?

The first step to solving a problem is recognising it. If you see an underworking employee, don’t wait for the opportune time to talk to them. If you do not address and treat the problem immediately, it will keep growing until the employee quits your company. 

The most constructive method of addressing the problem is scheduling 1 on 1 meetings with employees whose performances are hit. You will get clarity on what is going on with the employees and how your company can help them. Furthermore, it will motivate the employees to see their company care for them. 

2. Recognise and Meet Employee Expectations

Another powerful reason why employees underperform is when their expectations aren’t met. Of course, they will have certain expectations related to pay, career advancement, time flexibility, job security, and others. When they don't see their plan play out, they will lack the motivation to put in extra effort to achieve them. 

A manager can pitch in help for such employees by first understanding their expectations from their job and the company. If they can be met realistically, then assure them of the same. If not, then it is necessary to make them understand why you can’t fulfill certain expectations and what other incentives can be offered to them. 

3. Develop an Action Plan Together

Once you understand the reasons and issues with the employee underperforming, you can together formulate an action plan that works for both parties. You can set specific benchmarks that, once the employee meets, can make them eligible to ask for something in return. 

Doing this will empower your employee to work towards fulfilling their goals and, in turn, meet a company objective. Additionally, you can offer reskilling/retraining opportunities depending on the reason for underperformance. Make sure that the action plan includes the following:

  • Outline the actions each party is responsible for
  • Timeframe to meet the performance expectation, and the consequences of not meeting them
  • Resources and support the party can avail

4. Schedule Regular Check-ins and Follow Up

A single meeting with the underperforming employee will not solve the problem entirely. You must give time to the employee to improve and make the proposed changes. Therefore, it is better to schedule meetups with them and provide guidance and support wherever needed. 

When you monitor the progress your employee is making, you will be providing resources and holding them accountable. When you're monitoring employees in the workplace, you are holding them accountable.

5. Recognise and Appreciate the Progress

When someone doesn’t work to the fullest of their capabilities, they require someone to push them on the journey. If you constantly bug your employee to improve without appreciating them, then you will be causing more harm to their morale than before. So instead, as their guide, appreciate and celebrate the little wins when you see progress. 

This appreciation will make them more confident and happier in the workspace. In addition, you will eventually see your employees working harder and inspired by their progress so far. Therefore, take time to notice the efforts of all employees and appreciate them often. 

6. Provide Appropriate Feedback

Provide Employee Feedback

To better your employees’ performance, you must often provide appropriate and constructive feedback. It will help them look back on the progress and make changes where needed before it's too late. Additionally, you can add the input of those who interact with the concerned employee. 

A 360—degree feedback will help your employee gain an insight into how their performance impacts others and the company. Take the following things into consideration before providing feedback:

  • Emphasise one or two issues at once, or else you will end up overwhelming the employee
  • Be honest with your critique but be positive too
  • Bring it to their notice how their progress is positively impacting the team’s overall performance
  • Commend them for their achievements to boost their self—esteem

7. Document the Steps Taken Throughout the Process

It is essential to document every decision you take concerning an employee in the workplace. In addition, these records come in handy when the issue is not resolved and the employee challenges the process. Notice and record every conversation that happens between you and the concerned employee. 

You can also summarise each meeting with the employee and email the copy to them as proof. Record their responses and have a written record of their progress so far. Make sure to update the documents when changes are made. 

8. Take the final call when the employee doesn’t improve

Any employee who slacks off at work will significantly impact the team morale and the work environment. If you encourage such behavior at work, the other team members will become resentful, overburdened, and discouraged. Therefore, it is necessary to get work back on track in every possible manner. 

Therefore, if the employee doesn’t show any improvement, even after multiple chances and opportunities, you need to consider other options, such as reassigning or terminating. You can either provide another position in your company or resort to the last option, letting the employee go. 

9. Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

The longest—lasting method you can use to motivate the underperforming employee is encouraging them to balance their work—life. If implemented since day one, you will prevent underperformance in the first place.  

It is no surprise that workload can lead to fatigue and burnout. This, in turn, lowers performance levels. Inspire your employees to take time off work and rejuvenate themselves to keep the motivation to work up and running. 

Summarising Employee Underperformance

Dealing with and motivating an underperforming employee can be a time—consuming process for managers. But most employees tend to perform better when someone reassures them. As a result, they will, without hesitation, embrace a collaborative method that ensures them a better work environment. By implementing the simple techniques discussed, you will be turning an underperforming employee into a productive team member in no time.

Photo by Kindel Media

People Also Like to Read...