Underperforming Employees: 7 Tactics to Boost Their Productivity

7 Tactics Good Leaders Use to Boost Productivity in Underperforming Employees

Good business leaders constantly look for ways to help their employees perform at their best. They monitor their employees’ performance regularly to see if anyone is lagging behind. They know these underperformers not only have a direct negative effect on the business. But they also exert an indirect effect by lowering the morale of the entire team.

But micromanagement won’t work either. The best leaders also mentor and cultivate meaningful relationships. They inspire their team members to achieve more on their own. So these employees no longer need outside pressure from superiors.

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Tips for Managing Underperforming Employees

Here are seven tactics that savvy leaders use to lift productivity among employees who aren’t delivering up to their potential.

1. They Try to Maximize Engagement

One of the most common reasons why employees underperform is lack of engagement. Too many managers simply don’t realize that there’s a key difference between employee satisfaction and engagement.

An employee might be satisfied with their job because of the pay and benefits they are receiving by just showing up, but engagement only occurs when they feel a deeper connection with the company, its purpose and strategic objectives. Engaged employees feel like a part of the collective, which, in turn, helps them to feel passionate about helping it succeed.

Only 34% of employees are properly engaged in the workplace, so if you notice someone’s performance starting to slip, then there’s a good chance that amplifying their feelings of investment in the company will do the trick. If you’re able to determine that disengagement is indeed the culprit, then you should work on improving it. If you’re successful, then this can have a powerful impact on team productivity.

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2. They Break Goals Down into Steps

Some employees underperform because they find their target goals overwhelming. For example, asking a sales rep to close 100 deals over the course of a year might seem like a daunting task. But if you break it down to a weekly target of two sales per week, it can seem much easier.

This is why top managers breakdown wider, overarching goals into bite-sized pieces. Depending on the scheduling tools at your disposal, you might even be able to plan out team shifts around these incremental mini-goals.

Good managers know that this way of breaking down large targets to monthly weekly and daily goals is a huge perspective-changer. You Since your employees will simply be following a process that they trust will yield results that make them look good, they’re more likely to feel empowered and achieve better results.

3. They Offer Feedback Tactfully

One of the most common things employees complain about is that their managers don’t know how to offer proper feedback when criticizing their work. They either don’t give it at all or they are insufficiently constructive when they provide it.

If you have no experience on giving proper feedback, now is the time to brush up on your skills. One technique you can try out is to offer a positive comment before saying something negative. So before you point out some of the mistakes in your employees’ work, you should look at the positives and compliment them on it. Only offer negative feedback after you do this.

Some companies have weekly meetings, where team leaders celebrate the accomplishments of individuals in front of the entire workforce. This is a great way to ensure that when it’s time to call someone out on their shortcomings, it’s already offset by plenty of acclaim.

4. They Make Use of Data

About 86% of employees believe that they are subjected to significant time waste at the office on a daily basis. Sophisticated managers take their roles as enablers seriously, helping team members to plan and execute with greater efficiency.

While many monitoring apps are invasive, some are made specifically to help people recognize their individual patterns of deep work, distraction and everything in between. Some managers see personality testing as the key. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what system you like – having access to any type of data-driven insights is extremely valuable to managers as well as employees, because it allows you to work together to create personalized time blocking plans that can prompt spikes in productivity.

Very few managers would think about doing this, as it takes a bit of extra effort, but if you want to get the best out of your employees, it can help a lot. Also, don’t worry about the amount of time it might take, as much of the process can be automated, and the time you put into the initiative will be more than offset by productivity returns.

5. They Reward Improvement

Another way to improve productivity is to reward employees for their efforts. While positive feedback on a regular basis is important, recognizing someone’s fruitful efforts to improve can likewise go a long way.

The reward doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. Something as simple as a gift certificate to a nice restaurant will help. It is not about the price of the reward; it’s the thought of being recognized.

You can, of course, provide more expensive rewards, but they should be reserved for much bigger targets. You can also hold a contest and offer a prize to the best performing employee. Competition and gamification can drive productivity immensely. But you need to be careful about this, as it can sometimes have a negative effect by developing a wedge between employees.

6. They Help Employees With Personal Issues

Your employees’ experience in the office isn’t the only thing that impacts their productivity. The things that happens outside matter too. Employees spend about a third of their lives at work, which means that about two-thirds of their lives take place in different contexts.

While it’s important to allow people to have their privacy, good managers genuinely care about their employees as people – not just as team members.

So, if you feel that something is affecting an employee’s personal life, don’t be afraid to ask about it, but in a way that respects boundaries. Maybe there is something you can do to help, and even just the act of expressing solidarity can go a long way.

7. They Encourage Employees to Work from Home

Want another way to boost underperforming employee productivity? Then allow them to work remotely. Do this either on a regular basis or temporarily. Look for situations where someone needs some extra leeway.

Many managers feel threatened by the idea of allowing telecommuting. Because they think it will destroy both productivity and engagement. But evidence shows the contrary. A lot of employees prefer working from home because they find that they get more work done.

Managing these employees should also be easy, as there are videoconferencing and chat apps that make it easy to manage and communicate with them virtually, and many of the apps people use to get their everyday tasks done are available via the cloud.


Have you found some of your employees struggle to get more work done? You might want to try some of these techniques. But much of it comes down to matters of perspective. See your role as an enabler rather than a task master. Then you can likely see the results you’re after.

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1 Comment ▼

Victor G. Snyder Victor G Snyder has served as a consulting business coach since 2003. He founded BossMakers.co in 2014, empowering entrepreneurs to filter out the noise, to achieve flow, to tackle the challenges that will actually get them where they want to be – ultimately, to own success.

One Reaction
  1. Making sure that rewards are in line with company objectives is key. You don’t want to end up with a Wells Fargo situation.