Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

How to Help an Underachieving Employee

Employee underachievement reduces productivity, profit and morale in the workplace. One in ten employees is an underachiever.

Often managers are unsure about how to address the problem. With a few basic corrective actions you can manage the problem and get your employees back on the right track.

Ask the employee to list his job duties. Sometimes an employee truly does not understand job expectations. Correct any misunderstandings to manage the problem.

Analyze skills and abilities. Manage deficiencies with employee development in the form of additional training and education.

Upgrade resources. Replace inadequate equipment and tools. They contribute to underachievement.

Inquire about personal distractions. Examples can include divorce, child care issues or the death of a loved one. Reasonable time-off to address problems at home is sometimes the answer to underachievement.

Eliminate workplace disruptions. The most common include coworker, email and phone call interruptions. Reposition other employees or objects that contribute to underachievement.

Set short-term objectives. Reword broad goals into several smaller, manageable acts. Include target dates for completion.

Monitor achievement. Meet with the employee on a frequent basis between annual performance appraisals. Reward progress with verbal and written praise.


A thorough orientation for new employees spanning two weeks to a month can prevent achievement problems from occurring. Two simple ways to contain interruptions include forwarding incoming phone calls to an assistant and establishing a set time for email checking.


When discussing personal distractions, be supportive but don't pry. Asking specific questions of a personal nature can bring future claims of employment discrimination. Document employee progress in meeting objectives. The records may be needed to support future managerial actions.