How to Improve Workplace Performance

by Lisa Finn

Good work performance allows for more personal fulfillment and professional opportunities, such as respect from peers and a promotion or pay raise. However, if a good employee starts delivering mediocre or unacceptable work, there are ways to motivate him to improve through supportive communication, incentives and additional resources.

Indentify Problems

Figuring out exactly where and why the employee is underperforming are crucial elements to an employee's success. Before involving your worker, review his job duties and responsibilities to see if there is task interference or workload imbalance. Perhaps a complicated new software program slows production or the employee lacks skills and needs more specific training.


Meet immediately with your employee privately and confront her poor performance. Refrain from acting angry; discuss the problem using specific evidence, concrete data and factual information to give examples. This eliminates a power struggle and shows what she did, how you feel about it and why it affects the business. In addition, be careful not to praise the employee in the same sentence, such as stating that overall performance is good, because it lessens the impact of the situation.

Offer Help

After hearing the employee's response, offer support by first asking what ideas he has for changing the situation. This forces him to take ownership over his performance. In addition, motivate your employee by helping set short- and long-term goals, and state how reaching these goals could lead to other opportunities. Write down a personal plan, offer additional resources, such as attending a job-related seminar, go over deadlines and give clear expectations. Give a copy of the plan to the employee.

Give Incentives

Show your worker you value her talent and want her as a part of the team. Listen to what she needs emotionally to succeed. Note if she mentions feeling burnt out or needing a better work-life balance. Take this seriously and try to offer some flexibility in her schedule, such as a half-day off or a later start time so that she can go to the gym before work or pick her child up from school. If personal stress is the problem, refer her to human resources to explore counseling services and make sure she is given the time off to help herself.

Set Consequences

When your employee understands the consequences of poor performance, such as upset clients because of missed deadlines or resentful team members, he is better able to see how his performance affects others and the company's bottom line. If he continues to underperform, have another meeting, go over everything again and state direct consequences if performance does not improve, such as re-assignment, demotion or firing.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images