Issues with underperforming employees, possible causes and solutions

Example 1


  • Employee fails to undertake the work as required, showing signs of apathy and laziness.
  • Employee does not appear to understand job requirements or directions.

Possible Causes:

  • Job content and design
  • Inappropriate job fit
  • Personal or external issues.
  • Supervisor not issuing the command clearly


  1. Begin with an informal performance discussion
  2. Be clear about the performance requirements and expected contribution of the role to the work of the business.
  3. Focus on interest in work tasks, and how they might be improved.
  4. Explore options for opportunities in other areas of the business, if possible.
  5. Refer to counselling service if personal circumstances are impacting performance.


Example 2


  • Employee will not follow directions or perform tasks as required.

Possible causes:

  • Failure to understand what is required
  • Inability to perform tasks
  • Personal issues.
  • Blatant challenging of authority


  1. Begin performance improvement process starting with informal discussions around what is required in the position. Look at possible options for training and development if a skill deficit is identified.
  1. Commence formal performance management process, through the disciplinary route, if no improvement forthcoming.

  2. Use technology to manage employee and gather evidence for the disciplinary route. Click here to view how.


Example 3


  • Employee fails to acknowledge they are underperforming.

Possible causes:

  • Performance issues have not been adequately explained
  • Process has not been adequately applied.
  • Employee does not accept management assessments.


  1. Re-establish expected outcomes, use evidence of how performance has failed to meet expected standards, explain the impact of this on the success of the business.
  1. Where necessary commence formal performance management process, through the disciplinary route.

  2. When the manager struggles with the disciplinary route send them to a Management Course.


Example 4


  • Employee does not complete work tasks to the required standard.

Possible causes:

  • Lacks the required skills and capabilities.
  • Know that nobody is checking it
  • The employee thinks excuses will redirect the problem as not his problem


  1. Identify training and development opportunities as a part of performance improvement plan.
  1. If employee fails to develop required skills, progress through performance management process to possible options such as reassignment of duties, or transfer to another area to achieve a better job fit (if possible)

  2. Review recruitment practices to ensure appropriate selection decisions are being made.
  1. Commence formal performance management process, through the disciplinary route, if no improvement forthcoming.


Example 5


  • Employee is cynical of work environment and tasks, bringing negative opinions to the work environment.

Possible causes:

  • Has become disillusioned with work environment
  • Fails to understand value of work being undertaken


  1. Let the employee understand why his or her work is valuable to the whole company.  Even if he doesn`t understand why he can trust the decision of management to ask him to perform the job.

  2. Establish team culture based on respect and support.  Arrange a helper or mentor to assist him the first time.

  3. Re-establish role of the position, and the value of outcomes delivered by the organisation.

  4. If possible, explore opportunities for career transition and movement.


Example 6


  • Employee is regularly absent without cause.

Possible causes:

  • Job content and design
  • Inappropriate job fit
  • Management style
  • Personal or workplace issues.
  • Employee motivation


  1. Identify cause behind absenteeism

  2. Explore possible strategies for job redesign, job fit, changes to working arrangements, management of health issues.

  3. Re-establish expectations of attendance.


Contact us


43 Higher Bridge Street
Bolton, Greater Manchester
United Kingdom
+44 7493 190 475


ISO Solved UK Ltd.