How To Manage An Under-Performer

To pull one’s own weight is an expression derived from rowing. In a rowing team, everyone must pull oars in proportion to their weight to evenly distribute the load and ultimately, propel the boat forward.

Similarly, when all team members in a business carry their own weight, the team is propelled forward and work is evenly distributed. In a perfect world this would describe all teams. The reality however is that disengagement, lack of skills and knowledge and other factors result in team members who don’t make the cut.

So, should you hire someone else? It’s a costly solution. Employers can spend upwards of 50 per cent of the salary of the person being replaced when hiring.

Should you just tolerate inadequacy? That means wearing the cost of poor performance and lost productivity. Not to mention the impact it will have on the non-financial value of your company: your brand, customer satisfaction and team morale which impacts employee wellbeing and engagement.

Clearly there’s another way. That’s why we’ve listed our top tips to manage team members who aren’t pulling their weight. Here are five ways:

Identify the problem’s cause

The reasons people slack off at work are many and varied. You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know the cause. Is it lack of skills, poor fit for the job or perhaps disengagement that’s affecting their performance? Talk to the person to find out, but not in a confronting way as they may not reveal the true problem if they feel threatened.

Agree on an action plan

Again, when you reach an agreement to set out an action plan, be considerate and respectful. Stick to a solution based solely on the facts. Don’t suggest solutions based on emotions or biases. You want this step to lead them in the right direction.

Set a goal

Like all good goals, it has to be concrete, measurable and achievable within a set time-frame. Agree on what resources they will need to accomplish the plan. Be willing to provide ongoing support.

Monitor progress

Be patient and supportive. Remember, you aren’t sending a top performer off to work on a project. You’re dealing with someone who is trying to overcome challenges at work. Set up regular check-ins and be ready to adjust course if your original plan isn’t moving in the right direction.

Act based on results

Debrief on the results of the action plan. If you’ve seen changes, generously praise and recognise your employee’s effort. Progress the plan to stage two if necessary.

If there’s been no improvement, consider your options. Under-performance is not something to take lightly. If there is a serious mental or health issue underlying the problem, encourage your employee to seek professional help.

Steer your team on the course of productivity. And if someone isn’t quite pulling their weight, don’t count them out. A good action plan can move them in the right direction.