6 tips to properly deal with underperformance


Do you remember your last annual appraisal or the ones you had? These evaluations are very often a source of apprehension, even stress, for both managers and employees. This is even more true with situations of “underperformance”.


This year again, the Covid crisis has brought its share of additional challenges and difficulties. Many have made great efforts, and many have even suffered. Everyone has had their own experience. In this context in particular, an evaluation of underperformance may be perceived as unfair or cruel. So what to do after such a year?

At iNNERSHiP, we believe in 6 simple but essential principles to guide you:



#1 Can you make the difference between being and doing ?


An individual in a situation of "underperformance" is actually out of step with the expectations of his organization. It is a situation in a given work context, at a given time.

No one is inherently and permanently underachieving. Keeping this principle in mind makes it possible to respect the people concerned for who they are. Thus, one can seek the causes of the situation in a more dynamic, open and shared way.

The whole point is to prevent the situation from becoming frozen in time and the person – the being – being confused with his actions and results – the doing. Defining and measuring a situation of underperformance must focus on the results or the behavior at a time T, in no case on the person.

Good news as a corollary: underperformance is not inevitable.



#2 One cause can hide another

The causes of underperformance are numerous, not always apparent and can be cumulative. We can divide them into two categories.

Organizational (here are some examples)

  • lack of resources and means
  • opacity of the objectives set
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • flawed recruitment process

Individual (here are some examples)

  • lack of meaning, lack of fulfillment
  • sudden change of situation
  • difficult personal situation
  • communication difficulty
  • obsolete skills
  • maladaptive behavior
The list is far from exhaustive and has grown with the specific issues related to the pandemic: increased difficulty in finding meaning, emotional disconnection, complicated personal situations…. This diversity of causes makes underperformance all the more difficult to manage.


#3 Caring rhymes with discipline

A caring and humanistic approach does not mean laxity. This is precisely the opportunity to demonstrate rigor and high standards. The challenge is to recognize and release the potential of each employee, without discouraging them. Led with courage and respect, the professional shift is a great opportunity for managers to affirm their leadership style and their values.

Empathy, listening, civility, recognition will allow you to create an environment of trust essential to get out of difficult situations, and especially to avoid them in the first place. Post covid, it is particularly important to connect with everyone's feelings, to take the time for quality communication, with sincere attention. If it takes you too long, consider it a particularly profitable investment.

Which leader do you want to be? Now is the time to show it.


4- This is everyone business

Individual underperformance is a collective issue: the impact of an underperformance situation on the rest of the team should not be minimized. In addition to being less efficient, the team can find itself demotivated.

For managers to have an approach that is both courageous and benevolent, the collective culture must be as well. It is not acceptable that a manager is forced to make the splits between a harmful work environment and his individual values. It is therefore necessary that the whole organization collectively shares a system of definitions, assessment tools, processes and values ​​to allow alignment and clarity. Supporting HR and managers to give them the right tools and adopt the right reflexes will help them perform better, while reducing the mental load.


5- No procrastination


With the work overload and the frantic pace, as well as the fear that this subject engenders, some managers may be tempted to let these situations of underperformance last. To procrastinate or think that it will be resolved over time is also to forget that the person concerned may be in a situation of malaise or professional suffering. The more time passes, the harder it will be to get out. Far too often, HR is called upon to catch up on situations that could have been resolved much earlier.



6- Make it a development opportunity


Whether the outcome is a strengthening of skills, a change in posture or professional mobility, managing an underperformance situation is an opportunity to help and grow the person concerned. By building on their strengths, identifying them, identifying what works, what motivates and animates, we project the employee over the long term. It is certainly a much more profitable investment than relying on weaknesses that need to be corrected. (Yes, iNNERSHiP peoples are fans of the appreciative approach…)