An under performing employee is something every manager or leader will have to face sooner or later, but what’s the best approach? Some will tell you that poor performance is solely down to a lack of ability or self-discipline. Others will duck the issue and just try to remain ‘friends’ with everyone on the team. As with everything in business the balance lies somewhere in the middle.
Psychology Tips to Motivate Under Performing Employees
Let’s take a look at how you can use the power of psychology to get inside the head of the under performer and finally figure out what’s making them tick.
1. Outline the basics of good performance
First things first, you need to set out your stall and be clear about what you’re all shooting for. There are more than a few occasions when you’ll have left a meeting thinking everyone is up to speed with what you want, only for the canteen to be full of confusion the moment you leave. To get the best out of everyone you need to redefine what you expect, so here’re three ways you can do it:
- Create daily, weekly, and monthly targets that are easily quantifiable
- Emphasise when someone does a great job, and use it as a case study for the rest of the team to learn from
- Come up with a 5-line job description so everyone knows what’s expected of them
2. Talk about how you will assist with training needs
Poor performance can often be a great chance to identify gaps in people’s training. The best way to do this is to first ask the employee in question what they’re currently struggling with. Keep it to an informal chat rather than an all-hands meeting and you’ll find they’re far more likely to open up. Once you’ve taken on board what they have to say, go through their original job description and add in anything else you think they could benefit from.
3. Approach the top performers in your team to lend support
There will be a stark impact on organisationals goals when you have a chronic under performer onboard—proof that a team really is only as strong as the weakest link. To this end, you need to get the stronger members of the team to step up and provide expert input. They’re far more likely to be seen as equals or peers by the employee you’re trying to help, so ask them for assistance in a way that won’t come across as patronising or overbearing.
4. Understand the employee’s backstory so you can get to know them
There’s always the chance that someone is struggling at work through no fault of their own, and that matters outside of the office are having a far bigger impact than even they realise.
Taking the employee to one side in a friendly and casual manner is the best way to approach the issue. It’s all about giving them a platform on which to speak, and making it known that they can come to you whenever they feel the need. Building up a rapport like this isn’t something you should leave until poor performance starts to show itself. Take the time to do it with the entire team and the results will speak for themselves.
5. Listen before you speak, don’t just give out orders
Employees want to feel valued, and it’s amazing how many people switch off the moment they feel like they’re being demonstrated. Whilst you don’t want to put friendship with your team above all else, you do want to always address them in a way that makes them feel like you’ve listened. Here’re three ways you can do it with ease:
- Empathise when someone tells you about something they find difficult
- Talk about how what they’re doing will be appreciated by the entire team
- Tell them when their input has guided your decision-making process and thank them
- Talk about how valuable they are to the rest of the team
This point follows on naturally from the last, and it’s no surprise it has made it onto our list. If you can empower an under performer by showing them the team relies on them, it can make the world of difference to the level and quality of their output.
6. Use weekly rewards and daily feedback to build bridges
Everyone likes to know they’re doing a great job, and the chances are an under performing member of staff hasn’t heard anything positive about their work for months. Setting easily achievable short term goals is a great way to starting pushing the accelerator without them even realising. It will give them the confidence that they can do the work, and as you gradually increase the difficulty and complexity of the targets you’ll be able to bring them up to speed in a sustainable way.
7. Have a monthly team building session that gets everyone involved
There’s a number of worrying effects of poor morale, not least of all the way it can quickly spread throughout the team. This means you need to work on the team dynamic, as well as focusing on the individual who’s struggling.
Monthly team building sessions offer an opportunity to give everyone a break from work, and it’ll show your team you have their best interests at heart.
Give the member of staff you’re trying to reach a leadership position in some of the exercises and you’ll find they soon grow into it.
8. Emphasise the positives at every opportunity
Whilst it may be tempting to lay into a member of staff you don’t feel is up to the task, it does little good. Poor morale, a further reduction in performance, and at worst feelings of resentment are all that will follow if you follow this approach. Instead, you need to be emphasising the positives, no matter how small they might be right now. It’ll give your employee something to feel good about, and will hopefully show them they really do make a difference when they work hard.
9. Be transparent every step of the way
Last but not least, you need to be open and honest with everything you say. It’s no use reaching out to a member of the team only to be heard talking about them in a negative way the next day. Let your actions speak louder than words, and make sure you approach an issue in a consistent manner from day one. It’s unlikely to be an instant fix, but if you work at it you’ll soon have a top performer on your hands.
Now that you’ve seen how to motivate an under performing employee, all you need to do is start putting the guidance above into practice. The key point to remember is that you want to empower and motivate the employee, rather than chastise and publicly criticise them. Get them on board and feeling part of something great, and they’ll soon begin to raise the bar when it comes to their own performance.
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