Employee is not performing to his potential

I have an employee with questionable performance and I think now would be a good time to address the issue. How do I proceed? Would it be wise to write to the individual and what action should I take once the meeting has concluded?


I have an employee with questionable performance and I think now would be a good time to address the issue. How do I proceed? Would it be wise to write to the individual and what action should I take once the meeting has concluded?

A dip in any one of your employees’ performance will result in your organisation not running to its normal standard. Identifying a decline in an employee’s performance is the first step to allow the business to address, and improve, the situation.

An informal approach, speaking to the employee to make them aware that there are concerns with their performance, can be a first attempt to remedy the situation. During an informal discussion, the employee should be given the opportunity to identify the cause, if any, for their poor performance. It is important to clarify whether the reasons are connected to the employee’s capability or their conduct which is causing this, as a different procedure may have to be followed. This approach allows the employee to be made aware that their lack of productivity has been noted, and could identify whether workplace measures need to be put in place. It may be that an informal approach is the push the employee needs to remedy their lack of performance.

If the informal approach does not remedy the situation, or the issues are too serious, a formal approach should be adopted. This will involve writing to the employee to invite them to attend a meeting to discuss their performance. Where you are relying on any documentation, such as performance reviews, customer complaints or meeting minutes, these should be copied and included with the invite to the employee. The invite should also remind the employee of their right to be accompanied.

The meeting will be the correct forum to air your concerns about the employee’s performance and should allow them to set out a defence. Dependent on what is brought up within this meeting will affect the action to be taken. If the employee identifies a training or knowledge gap then a formal performance improvement plan can be set in place which can either arrange training or set in place measures such as shadowing and this will include a timeframe within which the employee will have to show an improvement. If formal action is required, then a sanction such as a warning can be issued.

The employee should be given the right to appeal and, if they do, the formal process should be repeated. If the employee has identified any medical reason why their performance is suffering then it may be that reasonable adjustments to their role may be required, or suitable alternative work should be sourced.

Further reading on employee performance

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Peter Done

Peter is the founder and group managing director of Peninsula Business Services, established in 1983.

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