Managers don’t really have it easy. You know that. They have a lot of work on their hands, but besides that they must deal with employees. This includes the slackers, which are probably the most frustrating workers to deal with. They are often demotivated, doing menial tasks instead of important assignments. A pity is that they’re usually very creative and smart people, but they don’t seem to be using their potential as much as they should.


These employees bring down the team’s productivity as well, because the team is only productive as its least productive member. Unfortunately, these employees are usually a cause of prolonged and missed deadlines, bringing your whole organization down the spiral.  


Anything that creates low productivity should be handled straight away. You should investigate the reasons behind these fallbacks, and try to help your employees overcome them. The longer you wait, the bigger problem you’ll create. Not only for that person, but for the rest of the team as well. If their colleagues see that such behavior is acceptable, they’ll start behaving the same way.


It’s inevitable you’ll have to handle an underperforming employee at some point in your career, but we’re here to share some tips that can help you deal with this effectively.‍


Find out the Reasons Behind Such Behavior 

Not every underperforming employee is a slacker. Maybe the one you’re “targeting” right now is currently feeling demotivated, or they’re working on a task they don’t feel comfortable doing due to the lack of knowledge.


Whatever it is, you must get to the bottom of it. Talk to your employee and see what’s bothering them. Then sit down together and see what both of you can do in order to help them. Breaking down assignments into smaller tasks might be a good solution in the case we mentioned above. But what’s most important is that you define a clear structure, as well as expectations, so you can measure the progress. 


Create a Recognition Program

One of the best ways to motivate your employees is by creating some sort of a recognition program. And no, the rewards don’t have to be monetary. On the contrary, many employees prefer appraisals, extra days off, and other similar rewards.


So, make sure you reward surprisingly good results and good behaviour. This can create a bit of a competitive atmosphere, and serve as a wake up call for the employees who were slacking lately. 

It’s About the Results

Underperforming employees usually keep busy, but not productive. They keep working, but they aren’t really contributing to the goal. If this is the case with your worker, you shouldn’t approach them and ask what they are doing now. Instead, you should ask them about their results, like what they completed in the last month.


Additionally, you can show them the results of other employees who performed well, compare them, and explain how their behaviour harms the company as a whole, but also other team members. Thankfully, you can easily track and compare the performance of your employees by using an office and remote employee software.

Reorganize Workload

People usually don’t think their efforts really matter when they’re working in a large team. There was even an experiment in which psychologists invited people to make as much noise as possible in groups. In a group of six people, each person only made noise at 40% of their capacity. Once the group was reduced to four team members, the capacity increased to 51%. And finally, when the people were left to work in pairs, their individual contribution spiked to 71%.


People feel they’re contributing more when they’re working in smaller teams. So, you should maybe think about shrinking the teams who are working on projects together. However, this can be difficult if a task requires employees of different profiles. 


The best way to keep employees on track when they’re in the large team is to give them all unique responsibilities. If everyone brings something else on the table, everyone will feel valued and like an essential part of the team. They see nobody else can cover for them, and that they’re not being taken for granted.

Wrap Up

A manager’s job is to be a coach, to be the leader to their team. Once you’ve realized what are their good and less good traits, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction. Maybe their skills are better suited for another department, and that’s fine. Maybe you’ll even realize that they aren’t a good fit for your company after all, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. 


The point is, you should talk to them first and see it that will have an impact on their behaviour. If not, try it again. It’s possible you weren’t specific enough in the first conversation, thus you should try and give more details now. Depending on how good or bad is their behaviour, maybe you’ll go through this process a few times before making a final decision to let go of them.

This article was originally written on July 5th, 2016 by Gina Ora. It was edited on December 6th, 2019 by Bojana Djordjevic.

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