How to motivate underperforming employees

In a perfect world, all employees would always perform at a high level. However, our world is not perfect. This is not our reality. Every business owner faces the challenge of how to motivate an underperforming employee.

There is a right way and a wrong way Dealing with this problem. After watching Signs of an underperforming employee, some leaders will choose to ignore this issue. Acting as if he doesn’t exist. Others will deal with the problem in a way that creates more problems. Here are some tips on how to motivate an underperforming employee in the best way possible.

1. Identify the cause of lack of motivation

Before doing anything, check in with yourself. Reflect on the situation. Why do you consider this employee an underperformer? Is this person the only one, or are others underperforming? What factors do you believe may lead to underperformance? Be honest – these are your personal thoughts alone. No one else will know.

Is there training, mentoring or other resources that were not provided to the employee that could have prevented this situation in the first place? It’s important to check in with yourself to make sure you’re treating your employees fairly.

If you notice that you have many employees who are underperforming, you may want to consider whether this is part of a larger pattern. Do you want to look wider and find out why? You might want to look Increase employee loyalty To get better results in the long run.

Also, remember that sometimes great performers are inspired. Sometimes, you can see it coming. Other times, not so. Have you been blindsided by a once-great performer that is slipping into an underperforming status? This may happen before they leave. If you suspect this may be the case, think about what might make an exceptional employee unhappy. These people can’t talk and be okay Head out the door instead.

2. To understand

Once you have convinced yourself that you are not being unfair in your observations, have a conversation with the employee. During these conversations, it’s important that you understand the employee. This meeting should be in a private location. Choose a neutral location if possible – not their workstation and not your office. The goal of these conversations is to open communication to ultimately improve their performance.

If you have any positive feedback, you may want to share it early in the conversation. This can help put the employee at ease. An employee may think “What my boss sees is my fault.” However, if you give positive feedback first, it can lay the groundwork for a more relaxed dialogue, which you need to progress.

3. Be direct about their performance

To have a productive conversation, you need to give your employee information. Provide statements that cannot be argued, not just opinion or hearsay.

Avoid vague statements that are open to interpretation, such as, “You have a bad attitude” or “Your job performance is poor.” While this may be true, such statements are not as direct or helpful as a clear statement such as, “You often look at customers and they start complaining” or “Three times this week, people sent their food back because what they ordered was was not.” Be clear about what is wrong and what needs to be changed.

4. Find out what motivates them

One of the first things to do to motivate an underperforming employee is to find out what motivates them. Not everyone is motivated by money or recognition. And, motivations change. A person may join your company with one motivation but those motivations may shift over time.

To find out if this might be the case with your underperforming employees, have one-on-one meetings with each employee. Ask them directly what motivates them in their work. Listen actively and take notes. From there, start testing different techniques. See how employees respond to different types of incentives and rewards and note what motivates them the most.

You can also send surveys to employees to get an idea of ​​what motivates them. Use the results to guide your management strategy. You’ll want to look at employee performance. Has production increased or decreased since implementation? See if there is any correlation between their motivation and their work output.

Getting to know an underperforming employee will help you understand them better. This understanding will help you create an environment that inspires them.

5. Create an action plan

Your employee’s receptiveness to feedback will determine what comes next: an action plan. A conversation can lead to an employee admitting that they are struggling with critical elements of the job. If they are open to improvement, you may want to offer additional training, coaching or mentoring. In this case, the situation is likely to be turned around if the right steps are taken.

Sometimes, job performance is simply a matter of will: an employee can be negligent. Now that the problem is stated, they will pay attention, because they know their job is on the line. They don’t need any extra training, they just need to be alert and you need to monitor their performance.

Regardless of the situation, it’s important to create an action plan for what the next steps will be. And, following your conversation with your employee, be sure to document your conversation and tell the employee what you expect from them.

6. Create incentives

Financial incentives, such as bonuses or commission-based pay, can be used to motivate employees to work harder and achieve specific goals. However, with an underperforming employee, these incentives can backfire. Providing special financial incentives only to low-performing employees can be a problem for your high-performing employees. It’s not a good idea to give special incentives to your low-performing employees without incentivizing the rest of the team.

Non-monetary incentives, such as recognition and appreciation, can be used to acknowledge and appreciate an employee’s hard work and contribution. Employee development opportunities can also help motivate some employees. Incentives such as training and professional development programs can be used Motivating employees Provides them with the tools and resources they need to grow and advance in their careers.

It is important to note that different incentives may be more effective for different employees and teams. Therefore, it is important to consider the individual needs and preferences of each employee when creating incentives.

7. Coach and follow up

Coaching an underperforming employee can be challenging. However, it is an important part of keeping an underperforming employee motivated. To coach an underperforming employee, first schedule regular follow-up meetings with the employee(s). Be specific about where they are underperforming and provide specific examples. Then, ask the employee for their perspective on the situation and actively listen.

Provide regular feedback and support to the employee. Hold them accountable for meeting goals. It is important to keep the conversation positive and focus on the employee’s strengths and how they can apply them to improve their performance.

8. Make sure to offer positive feedback

Show genuine appreciation and make the employee feel valued. The feedback you give during your follow-up should be positive and encouraging. You should also tailor feedback to individual employees and their specific strengths and contributions.

Make sure the feedback given is effective and helps the employee grow, not just praise. Simply appreciating employees can give a sense of complacency that can inhibit their desire to grow. Positive feedback that doesn’t encourage growth can stagnate some employees.

And finally, share positive feedback with other team members. In a team meeting or in front of their colleagues in public, to show the employee that their work is appreciated by the whole team. Make sure underperforming employees are comfortable with public recognition first.

Should you terminate an employee?

Sometimes, an employee’s skills just aren’t a good match for the job. While they may have a great attitude and desire to improve, it will never be ideal. For example, a restaurant employee hired to work in the kitchen who is consistently making terrible food cannot continue to work in the kitchen. However, moving the employee into a role as a server or host may be a possibility if their skills match the position. Rehiring employees can be a good option when they are a good fit for the company but not for their role.

In other situations, an employee simply Refuses to have a good attitude to succeed in any position. They show no improvement over time, or they may even admit that they have no desire to improve. In this case, you decide – even mutually – to part ways with the employee.


Having high-performing employees is vital to any business. Acknowledging that an employee is underperforming is important, but taking action is essential. There is only one motivation Ways to deal with underperforming employees. Use motivation as a tool in your toolbox that can help get your employees back on track.

Lines of communication must be open to improve performance. Underperforming employees can be coached for success or encouraged to move on to more suitable opportunities.

Erin Shelby on Twitter
Erin Shelby

Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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