14 Ways to Engage Underperforming Team Members

July 6, 2021 Staff Writer

In Washington, D.C., after a president is re-elected, an unwritten tradition kicks in – all existing cabinet ministers submit pro forma resignation letters. Some know that it is only an exercise; the president wants them to continue in their positions during the second term. Others use it as a way to return gracefully to the private sector. Either way, the president can accept or refuse the resignations depending on his (or her) preferences.

Wouldn’t forced resignations make it easier to start managing a new team at your business? It’s human nature to want your own team after a new assignment, but the reality is that you can’t fire everyone and start over. You may not be thrilled to work with some of your inherited team members, and not everyone may be thrilled with the prospect of working on the new team. Their reluctance may leave you with underperforming team members. So what can you do?

Amy Gallo, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, outlines the steps you need to confront the problem: 

  • Don’t ignore the problem. Unaddressed, an employee’s performance will not get better. This is a situation that prompt action on your part will help make the situation better.
  • Consider what’s causing the problem. Is the employee in the right job? Do they have the skills, experience, and talent for the job they have? Do they understand your expectations? Are you clear with your instructions? Take a look at your management style, you might be contributing to the situation.
  • Ask others what you might be missing. Get some perspective from a trusted source. Keep your conversation confidential, but talking to the employee’s previous boss or co-worker might be able to shed light on the problem.

It’s good to know if the problem involves the fit between the employee and the company’s culture. For example, an employee used to a closed culture, he or she could have difficulty sharing information or working collaboratively. Likewise, an employee used to sharing everything on social media might not be aware of a more conservative approach to communication.

  • Talk to your employee. Explain what you’ve witnessed, mention how underperformance affects the rest of the team, and make it clear you want to help. After a chance to reflect, ask the employee to share their thoughts about solutions with you.
  • Confirm whether the person is coachable. If your employee doesn’t want to do the job, no coaching in the world will motivate them. If they are willing to accept help and change, you can salvage a bad situation. If not, you’ll have to make some touch decisions about the employee’s impact on the rest of the team and your ultimate goals.
  • Make a plan. In it you can outline ways you and the employee will change in order to make progress toward team goals. Set up times to check in regularly and be sure to keep the appointments.
  • Respect confidentiality. Don’t talk to other team members negatively about the employee. If the employee turns their performance around, they still have to work in the team. Help them avoid embarrassment.
  • If there isn’t improvement, take action. By observing the employee, you are likely to uncover their strengths and weaknesses. Some successful situations have resulted in an employee transferring to another department within the company. A good manager can help the company retain talent, but refocusing it in a department where the employee can shine. Of course, it’s possible that the employee needs to find another opportunity. You can be as helpful as you’d like. Some managers give the employee time and space to look for another job. Some simply move to termination. Your decision will be based on your appraisal of the situation and your management style.
  • Praise and reward positive change. Let your employee know if they are improving. Show your team that mistakes are not a death knell to their career.
See also  The Association Mashup Episode 6: The First 100 Days as a New CIO

Gallo’s suggestions for handling an underperforming employee are reasonable and actionable, but you might be struggling with the demands of a new job, too. Your time may be limited and keeping up with employee checks may be difficult. 

If that’s the case, you might be ready for some assistance from new technology. At Propel, we use Align, software that allows your team to communicate, understand broader goals, and recognize achievement.

Align is growth management software for companies and their teams. Align provides tools to plan and communicate shared priorities, to help companies visualize and reinforce strategic goals. Among the tasks Align can help with are:

See also  Work @ Life: Understanding How Conflict Shows Up in the Workplace

Manage without micromanaging. Personalized weekly notifications keep your employee (and the rest of the team) focused on actions and what needs to get done.

One-on-one meetings. If you decide to have regular one-on-one meetings with an underperforming employee, Align can help you schedule and conduct those meetings, as well as provide progress for individual goals and a review of tasks assigned to the employee. Using data collected in Align helps make your one-on-one meetings specific and more productive.

Communicating goals. Align’s tools help ensure the work that matters is accomplished every day. Your employee will use a calendar to commit to one thing they promise to do that day.  Over time they can see how much they have accomplished by holding themselves accountable to that one thing each day.

Instituting accountability measures. Align tracks top-line-data from all over your company. Knowing what the high-level goals help you and your team make better decisions. You can manage and see real-time progress on all company, team and individual goals in a cascading visual. Not only can you assign tasks, but you can see how they are being accomplished.

It Comes Down to the Human Touch

The best technology, however, won’t stop an employee from underperforming. When all is said and done, your ability to handle difficult situations must grow throughout your career. Coaching is an excellent way to increase your knowledge and skill, and can help you the next time you confront an underperforming team member.

Our culture-driven coaching program gives you actionable strategies you can use today to build a more dynamic and agile learning organization. If you’re interested in using Align or want to know more about our coaching philosophy, contact us.


Photo by FOODISM360

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons