10 Tips for Talking to a Staff Member Who is Underperforming

Confrontation is never easy, especially in a workplace situation.

If you’re working in any kind of management-level job, sooner or later you’re going to need to have that awkward conversation with a staff member who isn’t performing up to snuff.

How you approach the discussion is the difference between inspiring an employee to work harder, and losing the employee entirely.

How do you get the most of this kind of conversation?

Don’t Put Things Off

Delaying the conversation is only going to make the situation worse. Get it over with ASAP.

Forget the Ice Breakers

Making small talk only delays the inevitable. It also might lead to lawsuits later if you’re not careful.

Cut right to the chase, explaining the purpose of the meeting and why you feel it’s necessary.

Write it Down

Talking points should be written down beforehand, with a copy to the employee so they can see what the situation is clear.

This keeps you on track regarding what you need to say, and also clarifies the matter to the employee as well.

Give Specifics

Back up your claims with as much proof as possible.

For example: instead of talking about the employee being consistently late, list dates, the employee was late with details about what time they made it into work.

Don’t Ask Why

When you start asking why things happened, you’re only giving fodder for complaints to HR.

Put your focus on results by asking how you can create an atmosphere of success for this employee.

Don’t Take the Blame

Unless you’re actually to blame for something, never take credit for things going wrong.

Again, this can only lead to trouble.

Beware of Bias

Poorly-worded statements can become problematic. Calling a woman ‘moody’ can be seen as gender bias, for example. Again, stick to the facts, defining the situation as precisely as possible.

Use “Almost” over “Always”

When you make all or nothing statements, you immediately get pushback. Rather than say, “Employee is always late,” say “Often.”


Let the employee speak. Take note of everything they have to say regarding the situation.

Give Clear Expectations

What does your employee need going forward to succeed?

Sit down and make a plan for what happens next, with clear expectations for both of you.

While having these kinds of discussions is never anyone’s favourite task, they do occasionally become necessary.

Hopefully, these tips make your job more manageable as a supervisor. Hang in there, knowing that in having these conversations, you’re doing the right thing.

May you continue to inspire positive change in the workplace.

About the Author: bigted

You might like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Alert: Content is protected !!