How to recognise employee underperformance and the reasons behind it

Your company’s management team must be capable of recognising the signs of a downturn in any employee’s conduct or achievements.

They should also be able to determine the possible causes of the problem to resolve matters constructively and satisfactorily for all parties. This article explores how to recognise employee underperformance and suggests ways to determine why it is occurring.

recognise employee underperformance stress

Signs of underperformance

  • Consistently poor or decreasing output
  • Regular mistakes
  • Falling short of personal objectives
  • Time management struggles
  • Attitude issues
  • Co-worker or customer complaints

Causes and solutions

Poor training

The first thing to look out for when trying to recognise employee underperformance is to consider whether problems with an employee’s performance may be attributed to any failings on your company’s part. You should regularly review the training that is provided and ask employees whether they require any additional support.

Post-COVID problems

The upheaval of the recent pandemic may result in something of a struggle when it comes to managing a healthy work-life balance.

Discuss the support you may be able to offer with other members of your management team and perhaps consider implementing greater flexibility in terms of in-office and remote working.

Physical or mental health

Employees often feel unable to report an ongoing condition to their superiors for fear of putting their job at risk. Staff members may even ignore signs of a problem and prioritise their work to an unhealthy extent.

Without singling out individuals, employers must be transparent with workers regarding available support, and it should be made clear that no one will be discriminated against for requesting that support.

Substance abuse

If a worker is found to be under the influence of some substance while working, you may face prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act. For this reason, you must act as soon as you begin to suspect that there is a problem.

In many cases, substance abuse is a side-effect of broader issues – so you must treat the individual in question the same as anyone else who appears to be struggling. However, there are specific steps you can take to prevent employees from working while drunk or under the influence of drugs.

For example, organisations such as Matrix Diagnostics can undertake specialist laboratory drug testing on behalf of your company to uncover any taking of illicit substances and to dissuade employees from attending work while under the influence.

Trouble at home

If an employee is struggling with issues such as family illness, bereavement, or domestic abuse, you must be understanding of the effect this may have on their performance.

You may decide to subtly and privately “check-in” with the struggling employee and allow them to explain the problem without pushing. It may be that they qualify for compassionate leave or that there is some support that your company could provide.

You should have a selection of resources available to pass on to employees, such as the contact details of certain support groups and initiatives.

Interpersonal issues

Workers may be distracted from their daily tasks by clashes with others – and, if the problem amounts to “bullying”, they may be afraid to report it to management.

In cases of this kind, it is up to managers to be observant and recognise the signs, such as a reluctance to work with certain people.

Other distractions may include a clash of working styles or a tendency to derail the task at hand simply by talking too much. If this is the case, it is easy to discuss this matter politely in a review and work with the employee towards improvements, which may include the “rejigging” of teams.