Strategies for Dealing with Underperforming Employees


One of the most challenging aspects of running a business is managing underperforming employees. When employees fail to meet expectations, it can have a detrimental impact on productivity, morale, and ultimately, the success of the organization. However, addressing underperformance effectively requires a strategic approach that balances accountability with support and guidance.

Identifying Underperformance

The first step in managing underperforming employees is to identify the signs of poor performance. This may include missed deadlines, errors in work, lack of engagement, or negative attitudes. By closely monitoring employee performance and regularly reviewing progress, managers can identify areas where improvement is needed.

Open Communication

Open and honest communication is essential when addressing underperformance. Managers should schedule regular check-ins with employees to discuss performance expectations, provide feedback, and offer support. These conversations should be constructive and focused on finding solutions to improve performance, rather than assigning blame.

Setting Clear Expectations

Clear and achievable performance expectations are essential for helping employees understand what is expected of them. Managers should clearly outline job responsibilities, goals, and performance metrics to ensure that employees know what is expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated.

Providing Support and Training

Often, underperformance can be attributed to a lack of skills or training. Managers should provide employees with the support and resources they need to succeed, whether that involves additional training, mentoring, or coaching. Investing in employee development not only improves performance but also demonstrates a commitment to employee growth and success.

Addressing Underperformance

When addressing underperformance, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Managers should seek to understand the root cause of the performance issues and work collaboratively with employees to develop an improvement plan. This may involve setting specific goals, providing ongoing feedback, and offering additional support as needed.

Documenting Performance Issues

It’s important to document any performance issues and discussions related to underperformance. This documentation can serve as a record of the steps taken to address the issue and can be valuable in more severe cases that may require disciplinary action or termination.

Exploring Alternative Solutions

In some cases, underperformance may be the result of factors outside of the employee’s control, such as personal or health-related issues. In these instances, managers should explore alternative solutions, such as temporary accommodations or adjustments to workload, to support the employee while they address the underlying issues.


Effectively managing underperforming employees requires a proactive and strategic approach that focuses on accountability, support, and collaboration. By identifying performance issues early, setting clear expectations, providing support and training, and maintaining open communication, managers can help underperforming employees improve their performance and contribute positively to the organization’s success.

Video Transcript

Dealing with Underperforming Employees

As a CEO or business owner, have you ever had this situation where you have got an employee, they are not doing their job well? You wish they would quit because if you fire them, you are worried that they might claim that you fired them for improper purposes, or maybe they will file for unemployment, and now you have to start paying out unemployment.

The Effective Approach

So you would prefer that they quit. And you are wondering, “How do I get an employee to quit?” Well, I want to show you a powerful way. And it is important that this not be abused. It is effective. It is a great way to deal with an employee who is not a good employee, who is either not doing their job or not effectively operating and performing in the role in which they have been hired to do.

Accountability and Feedback

And it is quite simply this, when you hold an employee accountable and regularly give them feedback on the areas where they need to improve, most people will not want to stick around in that sort of environment. Now, unfortunately, it is uncomfortable for you.


But I have seen time and time again when a company needs to remove an employee for performance or attitude issues, what they do is that the employee’s supervisor has regular, frequent meetings with the employee about the progress towards resolving these issues. The supervisor will explain, “Here is another instance. Here is what’s happened. Here is what it looks like to succeed in this job. Here is what you are doing. Notice the difference here. To remain in this role, this is what is expected of you.” And you are talking about performance and attitude issues.

Handling Termination

Second, as an employer, you should be documenting each one of these meetings and what you are talking about. So, it will say on this date, “I spoke with this employee and I talked about these items.” Document that, so, if there is a termination or resignation later, you have documentation of the specific performance or attitude issues that led up to that termination.

Addressing Misconceptions

Now, an employee who leaves may say, “It was a hostile work environment.” That is a common excuse. But a hostile work environment is a pretty high bar, and typically that is abuse by either a supervisor or someone in leadership or its leaders being negligent in dealing with hostilities within the workplace. It is not hostile for a supervisor to professionally and regularly remind an employee of the ways that that employee is not performing up to expectations for the role.

Considerations for Termination

Now, some employees will just hang on as long as possible. And in that case, you might decide, “I am going to terminate them.” But even if you terminate them at that point, sure, you might have to pay unemployment insurance, but you will at least have established documentation for the performance or attitude issues that led up to the termination, which gives you evidence to fight any case of wrongful termination or suggestions of a hostile work environment. It might also establish enough that you can avoid paying unemployment insurance because, where there are repeated violations of company policy, lack of performance, or other significant issues, if there is a serious series of significant Issues, often that can be sufficient to establish that the employee was terminated for a significant enough reason that the company should not have to pay unemployment insurance to that employee or the state, as it goes, many times employers pay it to the state and the state pays it to the employee.


So in short, accountability and frequent conversations with an employee are often enough for the employee to decide, “This isn’t working. I am not feeling great here. I am going to go find a place that is a better fit for me.” Maybe it is a better fit because they can slack off there without accountability. But you as an employer can use regular accountability meetings as a way to protect your company, preserve the high-quality employees that you have, and usher out the employees who are not working well, not performing well, and not bringing the right attitude to the workplace.

About the Author

I am Aaron Hall. I am a business attorney. I represent employers, CEOs, and officers with employment matters. If you would like more information about me, you can go to If you would like our free guide to avoid common legal problems in companies, go to Enter your email address. You will get a guide and videos walking you through how to avoid legal problems in your company.