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How to Manage an Underperforming Employee

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

One of the most difficult tasks for a leader is to manage an underperforming team member. Managers tend to avoid having these difficult conversations, and the pandemic has made the situation even more complicated. However, for individual employees to succeed, practical leadership strategies can be deployed that will not only mitigate the awkwardness but help the underperforming employee turn things around. First, know that the majority of employees want to succeed. It’s common for a manager to focus on an employee’s weaknesses when they aren’t living up to expectations, but that can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, focus on the employee’s strengths and assess them by their tasks rather than by their entire role. Second, make sure they are set up for success. It’s easy to write off an employee as “not having what it takes,” but often struggling employees simply don’t have the tools or support they need to succeed. This may mean they need additional training or one-on-one support. Finally, it’s important to be transparent. Don’t delay or obfuscate uncomfortable, direct conversations about unmet expectations. Struggling employees are often unaware they are struggling. Even though it may be awkward, know that having the conversation is the first step in making things better.

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