5 Tips to Help an Underachieving Employee Succeed – Leadership Advice

Guest post by Brent Frayser

An employee who’s disengaged, distracted, and uninspired by work can have an unfortunate effect on your entire workspace. Other employees take note of the lack of engagement and wonder whether they’re putting their time to the best use. Underachieving employees also aren’t putting their talents to the best use, which robs your entire organization of the chance to have employees collaborate with each other and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Get to the Source of the Problem

So, what’s the fix? The most obvious answer is communication. You need to remember back to when you hired that employee and determine where things went awry. What are the skills, aptitudes, and experiences that that employee brought to the table initially that you’re seeing less of these days? What was the reason that you hired that employee in the first place? An underachieving employee usually indicates a mismatch between your initial expectations in hiring that employee and his or her current on-the-job performance.

Take a look at an underachieving employee’s recent work and determine your next course of action. Is the work poor because of lack of interest or a lack of research into the topic? The problem could also be a skills deficit in which the employee doesn’t have the training or experience to complete a new kind of workplace assignment; alternatively, an underachieving employee could be suffering from a performance deficit, which means that your employee is reluctant or unwilling to put an acquired skill to use in the workplace.

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Communicate and Give Feedback

Underachieving employees who want to be successful are usually willing to talk it out and address the issues that they’re having. You might want to first address the topic generally, once you get an understanding of the basic problem, and let the employee give her version of events. Some employees could turn it all around by simply talking it out whereas other problems might run deeper.

If an underperforming employee is making a listless effort because they’re in the wrong department, or having a problem outside of the workforce, then that needs to be addressed. The first step is talking it out. Many times an underperforming employee will have an accurate picture of the problem yet be afraid to address the underlying issue. Try giving employees the space to vent any frustrations they may be having or confusions they might be experiencing about their duties at work.

Figure out what your Employee Needs to Succeed

In some respects, this point goes along with communication. If an under-performing employee addresses an issue and claims that more people around the office feel the same way, then it might be time for you to take a hard look at whether such a broad concern needs to be immediately addressed.

Maybe a handful of employees feel that the current project is distracting from more important work or that your employees’ talents aren’t being put to the best use. Oftentimes, you’ll find out that large parts of your employee base feel that the work they’re being given is either too tedious or too challenging for their training and background.

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Take that as constructive criticism and improve your entire workplace culture. If the problems are severe enough or need to be immediately handled before they threaten to spiral out of your control, then consider having a meeting in which you address your employees’ concerns out in the open.

Consider a Possible Mismatch

In talking to your employees openly, you might find that their long-term goals aren’t matching up with the current work that you have them doing. That mismatch can make it difficult for an un underachieving employee to feel that they’re in the right place and making a valued contribution. On that last point, asking an employee whether he feels valued at the company might not be a bad idea either.

Find out How Coachable the Employee Is

Franchisors are usually very concerned about future coachability, or the ability to constructively take advice to improve performance. The same goes for employees in a conventional workplace since remaining open to advice and criticism is a prerequisite for getting an underachieving employee out of her rut. Coachability, according to the Harvard Business Review, has two core elements – a commitment to improvement and the capacity to improve along the trajectory than an employer wants.

The first component, commitment, simply means that an employee should ideally be open to feedback and embarking on a new path. Sometimes that’s all it takes to shake off lethargy and beat underachievement. Secondly, you need to ensure that you’re using your own time wisely and coaching an employee who actually has the capacity to take on the role that you require.

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Author Bio

Brent Frayser is a media relations representative for EDCO.com, who is a graduate of the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s Degree of Business Administration (Major in Marketing, Minor in Management).  He was born and raised in the south, is very outgoing, with a strong sense of determination.  In his spare time, he enjoys: reading, writing, coaching baseball and football, and spending time with family and friends.


5 Tips to Help an Underachieving Employee Succeed – Leadership Advice

Elizabeth Becker

Elizabeth is Marketing Manager at PROTECH. Comments and feedback can be directed to her at jobs@protechfl.com.