5 Mistakes To Not Make When Managing Poor Performers

Gallup reports the US loses from $450 to $550 billion annually to those employees considered “not engaged.” That means, those poor performing employees might be making a dent in your bottom line, an idea no leader wants to think about. Every manager will meet the challenge of addressing poor performance, and it’s the approach that’s taken that can lead to a reinvigorated worker or a ticking time bomb of an employee. To manage poor performers back to peak productivity, you and your management team should avoid these big mistakes.


Confrontation is uncomfortable, but for leaders, it’s unavoidable. Fortunately, these difficult conversations are a great opportunity for employees to air their own concerns. When managers notice a problem, even in its early stages, a meeting with their employee should be arranged. During the talk, address the issue you see, support it with observations you have made and finish with possible solutions you believe will help in the future.

Remain calm and diplomatic, ensuring the employee has a chance to respond to each of your statements. An engaged employee feels understood and can connect to their position as it relates and supports the company. Do not make it a personal attack.

Related Reading: Top Managerial Mistakes that Explode in Your Face


For you and the safety of the employee, all conversations and emails surrounding a performance problem should be recorded and documented. When it comes to just about any touchy subject, we should expect the best but plan for the worst. These paper trails will help your management team to have the most accurate information and can observe patterns, improvements or lack of improvement.

Of course, all employee feedback meetings should be tracked. The more information your team has at its disposal, the more detailed a discussion you can provide during performance review time. The accuracy will be appreciated by your talent management team and employees as only 23% of HR executives believe their performance management process accurately reflects employee contributions.

Tweet This: 23% of HR Executives believe their performance management accurately reflects employee contribution. Does yours?


Human nature is hard to avoid, especially since even the most poised manager isn’t infallible. That said, treating an employee differently in front of coworkers or even among the management team is placing you in a compromising situation. No matter how subtle you feel you are, others will notice. The result could be more disengaged employees, office gossip and an overall toxic culture. Always remember that as a manager or leader, you are supposed to be setting the example for how you want other employees, future leaders and current leaders to act.


Poor performance can stem from a multitude of places and the point of addressing problems is to avoid seeing them again. If you both leave the conversation without any form of future planning, the problem will probably occur again, or no one will trust the other to see a change. Attitude issues need a performance plan that the employee understands completely.

When it comes to missed KPIs and goals, a performance plan may work, but you might still be missing the root of the issue. Instead, use your meeting to discuss the challenges your employee is facing and how those struggles are relating to their position. There’s a chance that a culturally fit and motivated employee is simply in the wrong job. Even increased responsibility could make a positive difference in productivity.


Some employees just aren’t a match or have lost their passion for the job. In these cases, no matter what you do, there is a chance they will never succeed within your office, however, not every performance problem falls on to the employee. Sometimes it’s a shared responsibility. Don’t pretend that bad performance couldn’t be an issue of you, the leadership team or your performance management process.

Tweet This: Some employees just aren’t a match or have lost interest in their position. Now what?

Take this time to reevaluate how the process is working with other employees. Are there patterns in performance across the board? Maybe supervisors are causing rifts, a new policy is complicating longstanding processes or a habit of your own is leaving the team a little frustrated. Even worse, maybe employees feel there is little room for communication in your performance structure. Whatever the case, be open to feedback from disengaged employees. They might hold the key to a more functional company.

Even the best employees will struggle at some point in their career. The responsibility of leadership is to know how best to handle the situation. Often poor performing workers are still an asset to the company and developing a performance plan is all it takes for a high performing team.

Do you need help navigating performance management? Check out our performance review template for a step in the right direction.


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