Managing an underperforming employee in the workplace

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Although the world has changed, the importance of performance management hasn’t. Your overall strategy and team goals need to be set and communicated, and performance progress still needs to be measured. 

HR Team Director, Martina McAuley, says: “Good performance management is built on clearly setting expectations, ensuring employee accountability and providing regular feedback to staff. Communication is key – daily team briefings, regular management meetings and one to one meetings with employees should be implemented. 

“Establishing an employee’s skill or will; the establishment of basic standards, expectations and targets (BET); adopting appropriate management style and clear communication are the four integral parts to address and improve an employee performance,” she explains.

Underperforming employees

“When it comes to underperforming employees, nine out of ten times the issue at hand is a result of the inability to communicate clearly with staff rather than outside influences. 

“An employee left to his or her own devices and not made fully aware of the requirements of a role will likely underachieve in terms of performance. More often than not, a lack of clarity signals an imminent failure to deliver. 

“Written communication is vitally important in every operation but in the absence of face to face briefings, the message can very often get lost and or forgotten,” says Ms McAuley.

Reasons why an employee may be underperforming:

  1. The wrong person was hired for the role.                      
  2. No clear expectations of the employee were established.
  3. Poor job role design.                                               
  4. Ineffective induction and training. 
  5. Ineffective working environment.       
  6. Unsuitable organisational structure.
  7. Ineffective or no communication.
  8. Lack of rewards or motivation.
  9. Insufficient performance feedback. 
  10. Outside influences.

Ms McAuley added: “Unique to HR Team is our tried and tested BET system, which clearly outlines how to achieve efficiency and improve performance in the workforce.”


HR Team’s BET system is broken down as follows:

B – Basic standards for employees 

An organisation’s basic standards must be clearly outlined from day one and are non-negotiable. These standards may include matters such as time keeping, code of conduct, social media policy, mobile-phone policy, sickness protocols, employee presentation/ appearance, etc.

E – Expectations of employees

Job descriptions outline clear roles and responsibilities for employees. These must be communicated clearly to ensure that every employee understands what is expected and required of them in the organisation.

T – Targets for employees

A lack of clearly defined goals or key performance indicators can severely affect your organisation. Hold regular team briefings to determine deadlines, financial targets, productivity targets, wastage targets, sales targets, etc.

If you would like to watch Ms McAuley’s webinar on performance management or benefit from one-to-one expert advice, contact us today: or call+353 1 695 0749 (from Ireland) or +44 2871 271882 (from NI/UK).

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