How to Manage Poor Performance at Work in 9 Easy Steps

Updated 30 January 2023

Knowing how to effectively manage performance is an essential skill that helps you contribute to the company's overall success. The poor performance of a single person or an entire team can impact many important factors at work and limit the organisation's growth. If you're responsible for managing colleagues within a team or department, it's important that you know how to improve effectiveness and productivity by using techniques for managing poor performance. In this article, we explore how to manage poor performance, explain why it's important in the workplace and give you additional tips for improving performance.

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Why is it important to know how to manage poor performance?

Knowing how to manage poor performance at work is essential for every team leader. Here are some benefits of knowing how to deal with poor performance:

Improve team's productivity and effectiveness

Successfully managing poor performance allows you to positively impacts the team's overall productivity and effectiveness. Using techniques that motivate the team both individually and as a group builds trust and improves communication. When you show that you can manage someone's poor performance, they're more likely to ask you for advice that can help the team predict and prevent issues from happening in the future, resulting in a better overall performance of the team.

Related: Areas for Improvement to Help With Employee Performance

Set high standards and expectations for the team

When you're successful at managing someone's poor performance, you encourage other colleagues to do their job well and assess their working methods. It also helps people realise and better understand the expectations that you have for their performance. This may include the quality of work that they deliver. For example, how successful they are dealing with customer claims if they work in a customer-facing role.

Build trust

If you're managing colleagues' performances, being a trustworthy and reliable professional that others can easily approach is essential. When team members see that you know how to respectfully manage someone's poor performance by helping them, they may feel more comfortable asking you for help. It's also important for them to see that you can show appreciation for someone's hard work as they continue improving their performance at work.

How to manage poor performance

Consider taking these steps to manage poor performance within your team:

1. Establish the issue

Sometimes when managing a team, you may notice that something's wrong, but you're unsure about the cause of the problem. Establishing the performance issue is therefore the first thing to do to successfully manage poor performance within a team. By making this first step yourself, you can also establish the severity of the problem and how long it had existed before it came to your attention.

Related: How to Conduct Employee Performance Reviews (With Steps)

2. Address the issue immediately

Addressing the issue immediately after noticing someone's poor performance allows you to handle the problem before it affects the team's productivity. Occasionally, the person may not be aware that their performance is below the company's expectations. Explaining it to them during a one-on-one meeting is typically the first step that you can take to help them resolve the problem.

3. Document the process

Documenting the history of managing performance can be a useful tool if you decide to report someone's poor performance to senior management. You may consider keeping a journal where you'd describe issues that arise within the team and explain what steps you take to help colleagues improve their performance. This documentation may also help you train new managers and share best practices for managing poor performance within the company.

4. Ask questions

Managing a team member's poor performance is easier when you understand their situation. Upon noticing that someone's work is not meeting the company's expectations, consider asking them what might have caused it. Be sure to show them that you truly care about their wellbeing and want to help them manage the situation. You may also encourage others to support the person who's struggling in their role and needs more time to adjust to their responsibilities.

5. Encourage accountability

Team members are more likely to work hard when they know the rest of the team is counting on their performance to meet collective goals. By expecting that all team members support each other, you can encourage them to ask for help when they need it and improve communication. When everyone realises the importance of their work, they're more likely to take full ownership of their actions and remain engaged in making team efforts successful.

6. Recognise the person's strengths

Even when someone's struggling in their role, you may consider showing appreciation for the things that they do well. For example, if a new staff member finds it hard to adjust to the workload, consider highlighting their excellent attention to details while making them aware that you expect them to go through more cases or tasks per week. Using positive feedback to manage poor performance helps team members trust you more and allows them to feel more comfortable while going out of their comfort zone to improve their work.

Read more: Positive Feedback: Why It's Important and How to Give It

7. Provide honest feedback

Providing honest feedback is often critical for the team's overall performance score. When you notice that a team member's unique talents would make them a better addition to a different department or team, you may consider discussing that with them. By doing this, you can show that you appreciate them for their professional strengths and that you're dedicated to helping them use their full potential in a different role, rather than dismissing them immediately.

8. Form a performance improvement plan

If you notice some recurring issues that cause poor performance, you may consider developing a performance improvement plan. This process allows you to quickly address common issues within the team, such as low motivation. You may also choose to form performance improvement plans for each individual person whose work needs to improve to meet company expectations. Presenting them with a documented plan that clearly outlines their new goals is a useful tool that they can use to improve their performance on their own. Other performance management tools include one-on-one check-ins, real-time feedback and reward schemes.

Related: What it takes to be a management analyst (with job duties)

9. Follow up with the team member

Following up with team members while they work on improving their performance allows you to support them along the way. It's also useful to measure their progress because it allows you to better understand their potential and predict if they can accomplish their performance goals that you've established for them in their performance improvement plan. Your encouragement and interest are also essential to making the team member feel confident and loyal to the organisation.

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Common types of poor performance issues

There are many types of poor performance issues that you may come across when working in a managerial role. Taking the time to understand the most common types can help you develop better performance improvement plans and support someone when they're struggling in their role. Here's what you can look out for:

  • Bad management skills: Sometimes managing poor performance may require that you perform self-assessment to see if there's something you can do to improve your management skills. Doing this helps you position yourself as a self-aware leader who's dedicated and ambitious about helping the company grow by working on their own performance.

  • Lateness: If you notice that a team member keeps arriving late for work, it may be because they have a long commute to work. You may consider developing an individual work schedule for them that would make it possible for them to start and finish work later.

  • Absence: When a person is absent at work, it's often cause by personal issues that they focus on. Handling a situation like this may be stressful for them, but having their leader's and colleagues' support can make dealing with it easier.

  • Wasting time: In many cases, wasting time at work is a result of excessive use of smartphones during working hours. To prevent this from happening and to maintain motivation within the team, you may consider introducing a different break schedule that allows team members to take several shorter breaks during the day.

  • Conflicts: Conflicts between coworkers may result in poor performance because it makes the two sides of the conflict unable to communicate with each other in a respectful and clear way. In such cases, it's important that you know how to use conflict-resolution skills to help team members understand how to improve their performance.

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