10 Causes of Poor Employee Performance and How to Manage Them?

“The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. … The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying ‘uh huh,’ [you] dramatically improve people’s motivations.”

– Dan Ariely


A good employee is expected to be diligent, efficient, and productive. However, it’s often difficult to constantly keep up with these standards. When this happens employees face the dilemma of poor employee performance. In this case employees tend to decrease the levels of dedication and effort they put into their tasks at work. What specifically causes this dilemma? Well, there isn’t just one answer to that question. There are various causes of poor employee performance that depend on the individual and their environment:

Potential causes of poor performance

A lack of resources

  • Employees aren’t able to optimize their work time if they’re missing key resources to complete projects.


  • This includes issues such as collaboration problems and permission seeking which makes it difficult to accomplish tasks.

Lack of skills/training

  • Employees not equipped with the right skill set or the necessary amount of training won’t do as an efficient job as others.


  • Occurring with company or project expectations leads to a misguided employee who misinterprets assignments.

No carrots

  • An employee slacks off because they’re not being rewarded or recognized enough. Leads to disengagement.

No sticks

  • An employee assumes they can get away with anything and begins to grow lazy due to lack of consequences. In turn, also leads to disengagement.

Burnt-Out employee

  • Employees have no energy to complete their work or are so tired that the best they can do is a mediocre job.

Personality clashes

  • Two or more personalities in the work force aren’t getting along which leads to digression from work and more focus on personal vendettas.


  • A huge factor in employee disengagement. Employees become too distracted with other issues in their life than focusing on assignments.

Poor performance management

  • When employees are poorly managed by HR or upper management there is a trend of confusion and mistrust amongst employees.


Managing poor performance

  1. Identifying the cause

In order to improve poor employee performance, identification of a possible cause can help pinpoint the exact issue. A manager can use this information to help refine the situation and employee performance. As a result employee’s productivity and engagement will quickly show great improvements.

  1. Confront employee

After identifying the issue at hand with the employee it is time to confront them about their poor performance and create an open line of communication to discuss their recent difficulties. The confrontation needs to take place swiftly after identification of the problem. This needs to be done so that the employee doesn’t assume their recent drop in productivity is condoned. The meeting between you and the poor performing employee should be one-on-one for privacy sake and should never be done with personal emotions involved. The explanation for their recent fall in performance should be stated clearly and with as much factual information as possible. At the end of the poor performance review the employee should leave fully understanding their performance level and what’s expected of them.

  1. Aid them to improve

The employee may have trouble figuring out what their issue is and how to fix it. You’ve already helped them with the first step of identification and with clarifying the issue with them. As a manager you should help the employee find possible solutions to their performance issue.

Collaborate with the employee to find the best possible fix for them and take the time to understand their perspective as well. Once a solution has been drawn up and some time has passed it’s vital to check in with the employee to see if their poor performance has resurfaced.


In summary

When it becomes evident that an employee isn’t performing up to par it’s necessary to identify the possible cause of their funk. From there a meeting should take place where the employee feels safe and comfortable to discuss any issues they may be dealing with. Steps need to be taken to aid the employee in improving their productivity and a follow up should take place to ensure that the employee is making strides in the right direction.

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