Managing employees who are not performing in their jobs at the level that you’d expect is not an easy task for even the most seasoned supervisor. No one likes having difficult conversations with staff, or losing valuable business time and resources focusing on micromanaging an underperforming worker.

The reality is that you have a lot more to lose than time and resources by not taking the time to address, and work towards improving poor performance. Ignoring workplace issues can be costly for you in terms of employee morale, customers, clients and revenue.

The following “Do’s” and “Don’ts” will give you step by step guidance that will help you through the process of dealing with performance issues head on:


-Ignore problems with poor performance. Workplace issues won’t just go away and in fact it will become worse if not addressed immediately.

-Approach the conversation with your employee about their poor performance in a negative, demeaning, or defensive way. Be clear but firm when describing your concerns.

-Try to sugar coat what will likely be a difficult conversation. No one likes to hear bad news. Be very specific about what it is about your employees’ performance that has been problematic. This includes being clear about how his/her performance has impacted the work of others, or affected your customers or clients.

-Just talk “at” your employee but give him or her the opportunity to share with you what they identify as problems and how they might improve their performance.

-Have personal or confidential conversations with your employees in an area where others can overhear.


-Address issues as they occur. Clearly discuss the specific issue(s) that are causing concern.

-Share very specific examples of poor performance and provide details on how the employee can turn poor performance around.

-Make the discussion a two way conversation by giving your employee an opportunity to share with you the ways in which they can improve their work performance.

-Make even a difficult conversation as positive as possible by highlighting the areas of the job where your employee has performed well.

-Summarize the discussion in writing if you don’t have a formal performance evaluation form or process.

-Follow up with your underperforming staff member to make sure that they are following the guidelines that you have outlined to improve their performance. Determine how often you will follow up based on the nature or severity of the performance problems, or minimally, twice a year.

-Help your employee to figure out how to improve their performance by providing clear cut and measurable goals and identifying areas for training or mentoring.

Be proactive and have a process in place to identify, and possibly prevent work performance issues before the issues take hold in the workplace. Sit down with your employees on a regular basis whether they are poor performers or not to let them know how they are doing throughout the year.

Set up a formal review process, minimally on an annual basis. Have weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly check ins with your staff to get updates on their work and to discuss any challenges that your employees may face, or additional training that they might need.

Author's Bio: 

Dianne Shaddock is the Founder of Easy Small Business, a website which provides “Quick and Simple Human Resources Strategies for Small Businesses, Non Profits, and Entrepreneurs. Go to for more tips on how to hire and manage your staff more effectively. Easy Small Business HR, Your Personal HR Consultant!