Employees are the backbone of a company. When an employee is not meeting the standards of their position, it can have a negative effect on the organization as a whole. An underperforming employee can bring down morale, lower productivity, and create an overall negative work environment. In this article, we will explore how to deal with an underperforming employee. We will look at the different options available to organizations and discuss the pros and cons of each option.

Address the issue with the employee as soon as possible

The underperformance of an employee can be a result of many factors. In some cases, the underperformance is due to a lack of motivation or engagement on the part of the employee. However, in other instances, it could simply be that there are issues with their job duties that need to be addressed before they will have the opportunity to succeed.

Addressing underperforming employees as soon as possible allows you time to address any issues and make adjustments before they cause larger problems for your organization such as lower productivity or decreased morale among other employees.


Evaluate the situation and determine if the problem is with the employee or with their work

There are times when the underperformance of an employee is due to factors outside of their control. For example, they may not be a good fit for the job or they may have been given too much work and are struggling to keep up.

In other cases, however, it may be that the problem is with the employee themselves. They may be unmotivated, unengaged, or simply unable to do the job duties required of them. In these instances, it is important to determine if the problem is with the employee or with their work.

If you determine that the problem is with the work itself, there are several things you can do to help them succeed in their position including adjusting their workload, providing more training, or changing their job duties.

If you determine that the problem is with the employee, you will need to decide if it is worth trying to help them improve or if it would be better to terminate their employment.

Coach the employee on how to improve their performance

If you decide that the problem is with the employee and that it is worth trying to help them improve, one of the best ways to do this is through coaching. Coaching helps employees understand what they need to do in order to improve their performance.

Coaching an underperforming employee should be done in a structured way. You should start by setting expectations for the employee and then provide feedback on their progress. Make sure that you are clear about what steps the employee needs to take in order to improve their performance. Finally, always end with a recap of what was discussed so there is no confusion.

The benefits of coaching an underperforming employee include:

  • Improved performance from the employee
  • Increased morale among other employees as they see the underperforming employee improve
  • Improved communication between the employee and their supervisor
  • Potential for a longer-term relationship with the employee if they do succeed in improving their performance

The disadvantages of coaching an underperforming employee include:

  • It can be time consuming
  • It can be difficult to get employees to buy into the process

Document everything that has been done to try to help the employee improve

When you are trying to help an underperforming employee improve, it is important that you document everything. You should document the steps you have taken to help them succeed as well as their performance in those steps.

Documenting your efforts can be helpful for several reasons:

  • It will provide evidence of what has been done if the underperforming employee decides to file a lawsuit against your organization for wrongful termination. Having this documentation could save your organization money by helping them avoid having legal fees associated with defending themselves in court or paying settlements and damages in such cases where they may lose a lawsuit due to lack of sufficient documentation on their end.
  • It also allows other employees who work with the underperforming employee see how much time was spent trying to help them improve and may give them a better understanding of what went wrong if the underperforming employee is terminated.
  • Finally, it can also be helpful for future supervisors or managers who may have to work with this underperforming employee in the future as they will have a clear idea of the history of their struggles and what was done to try to help them.

When documenting your attempts to help an underperforming employee, it is important to include the following information:

  • Who was involved in the discussion
  • What was discussed
  • When it happened
  • Where it happened (if applicable)

If everything else fails, terminate the employee’s employment

If you have tried everything possible and the underperforming employee still does not improve, your organization may need to terminate their employment. This should always be a last resort as it can be costly for an organization to terminate an employee.

When deciding to terminate an underperforming employee, there are several things you will need to take into account including:

  • The cost of terminating the employee’s employment, which includes any severance pay that may be required
  • How the termination will impact other employees in the organization
  • If there is potential for legal action from the underperforming employee

If you do decide to terminate an underperforming employee, make sure that you follow proper procedures. You should provide them with a letter of termination specifying the reasons for their termination. You should also make sure that you have supporting documentation to back up your decision.


An underperforming employee can have a significant impact on an organization. The options available to address this situation are termination, corrective action, or development. Each option has benefits and drawbacks that should be considered before making a decision. No matter the course of action chosen, it is important to document the process and take steps to prevent the problem from happening again.