How to Handle a Weak Performer at Work

by Nicole Vulcan
Your employee may appreciate the discussion about improving his performance.

Your employee may appreciate the discussion about improving his performance.

When you're a manager in charge of the performance of other employees, you may eventually have to deal with the person who just isn't cutting it. While it's an uncomfortable position, you're much better off giving the employee feedback than letting the company suffer with weak performance. As a manager, deal with it right away to avoid prolonging the problem. And if you're a co-worker who has to work with a slacking employee, alert your boss to the issue -- you're not in the position to manage other employees.


First off, monitor the situation to determine why the person is not performing the way he should. Don't automatically assume that he is unwilling to do the job properly. In some cases, it may be that he's not capable of doing the job, that he hasn't been trained well, or that a simple thing is causing him to be frustrated and perform poorly. Talk to the employee to find out whether there are things he needs in order to do the job better, such as different tools, a change of co-workers or more support throughout the day. If that's the case, do what you can to accommodate the changes.


Provide additional training to give the poor performer the tools he needs to do his job better. Find an in-house employee who can help bring the employee up to speed -- which can help build a better team environment as well as helping the poor performer. Also look for computer training programs that may help, or have the employee sign up for college or community college courses related to his job, advises the Mind Tools website.

Goal Setting

Once you've identified the problem and provided the employee with new tools or training to do his job better, you've already done a lot to help bring him up to speed. Following that, help the employee set new goals for himself to perform better. Follow the "SMART" model of goal setting, creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Ask the employee to set a weekly goal that improves his performance by just a small amount -- which after a month will add up to a more significant improvement.


Once those goals are set, hold your employee accountable for them. As part of his improvement plan, let the employee know what will happen if he doesn't meet the goals. You've tried to fix the problem -- but you can't hang onto a poor performer forever. Come up with a series of consequences; for example, give him a written warning when he doesn't meet his goals after one month, send him home from work unpaid when he doesn't meet them the second time, and then let him know he'll be terminated after the third month of poor performance.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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