Most if not all of my clients function optimally because of individual contributions of team members and the leadership group. Leading a team involves ensuring that every team member maintains a high level of productivity. Understanding the factors responsible for sub optimal performance among team members can enable leaders to determine the best strategies for managing low productivity and improving performance within teams. In this article, I wish to discuss poor performance, outline the importance of managing it, highlight factors responsible for suboptimal performance amongst team members and provide some insight to help you manage these challenges.

Poor Performance & Relative Impact:

Poor performance is a collection of performances, outputs or attributes that fall below our expected standard. The broad definition means poor performance can vary across industries, professional roles and projects. Some elements that contribute to underperformance include – negative attitudes at work, negative attitudes towards work, tardiness, punctuality, low productivity unethical behaviour and misconduct. You can also determine poor performance by setting objectives and targets that are not met. A team member who performs poorly is one who’s conduct does not align with your overall objectives and expectations of the organization.

Possible Considerations:

When challenged with poor employee performance, Managers have flexibility and as a result, can take several steps to address the situation effectively. Here are some actions that Managers might like to consider as they have worked successfully in the past.

1. Identify the underlying reasons: Managers should investigate the causes of poor performance before taking action. It could be due to a lack of skills, unclear expectations, personal issues, in adequate resources or limiting factors. By understanding the root cause, Managers can develop a targeted approach to address the problem.

2. Communicate expectations clearly: it is crucial for Managers to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities and performance expectations. Clear communication help set benchmarks that align employees to efforts accordingly. Managers should consider providing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound parameters to guide employees.

3. Provide constructive feedback: regular feedback is the essential for employees to understand how they are performing and where they need improvement. Managers might provide timely and constructive feedback, focusing on both strengths and areas for development. Feedback should be specific, actionable and delivered in a respectful manner while emphasizing the impact of performance, on the individual, team and business unit.

4. Offer additional training opportunities: if poor performance is due to a lack of skills or knowledge, Managers can arrange appropriate training programs or learning resources. Providing employees with the necessary tools in training can help them enhance their capabilities and overcome performance challenges.

5. Implement a performance improvement plan: in the case of persistent poor performance, Managers can develop performance improvement plans outlining specific targets milestones and actions that employees need to achieve within a define period of time. These plans create a structured approach for addressing performance gaps and allow managers closely monitor progress.

6. Support and mentor: Managers can offer support and mentorship to struggling employees. By understanding their challenges and providing guidance, Managers can help individuals develop strategies for improvement. Regular use of check – ins and one on one meetings are valuable opportunities to discuss progress, concerns and provide ongoing support.

7. Explore alternative work arrangements: sometimes poor performance may be influenced by factors outside of work such as personal issues or health problems. Managers may wish to explore flexible working arrangements, temporary adjustments or workplace accommodations to help employees overcome the challenges and maintain an acceptable level of productivity.

8. Recognize and reward improvements: when employees demonstrate improvement in their performance, Managers should acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the employee. Recognizing progress reinforce positive behaviour and motivate individuals to sustain their performance and strive for further growth.

9. Evaluate the systemic issues: Managers might wish to assess whether poor performance is indicative of broader systemic issues within the organization. Consider factors such as inadequate resources, unrealistic expectations, toxic work environment or just the inability to get along with other members or even you as the Manager. Addressing such issues can contribute overall performance improvement.

10. Consider consequences: in cases were poor performance process despite interventions, Managers are required to implement appropriate action. These actions should follow organizational policies and procedures and be undertaken with fairness and transparency. Disciplinary measures may include verbal or written warnings, performance probation or termination of employment.


Remember, the onus is on Manager to give every possible opportunity to improve performance however, it is the responsibility of the employee to make it happen. Each situation is unique and Managers will base their approach on individual circumstances. Effective communication, feedback, support and a proactive management style can significantly contribute to address poor employee performance focusing on a culture of continuous improvement.

Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Niagara, Ontario, Canada. An international facilitator, presenter and consultant, he is known as an operations management leader and coach. Nicholas conducts programs in leadership, supervision, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution and strategic planning. He has been an international consultant since 1989 and is the author of several professional publications. His presentations have been consistently ranked in the top 10% throughout North America. See Nicholas’ bio, his other publications and services on the PMCG. Website at