One of my team members isn't pulling their weight. What should I do?

It’s MEGA frustrating when you’re a small business owner and you’re paying for an employee who isn’t cutting the mustard. Especially when you feel like they’re holding you back. It’s also annoying for other staff, who are probably compensating for their colleague’s poor performance.

It’s tricky, but you MUST deal with the situation. Brushing it under the carpet will

😱 Drive you nuts. Plus, resentment is likely to build up between the two of you

📉Waste your money (in wages) and time (in picking up the slack)|

📣Send a powerful message to your other employees that you totally tolerate underperformance

Read my tips in this blog on what to do, and then attack it. Believe me, you’ll feel heaps better when you’ve taken back control of the situation 💪

WHAT DOES ‘NORMAL’ LOOK LIKE?

The first thing to consider, is whether this is a new problem. In other words, what does ‘normal’ look like for this employee?

If they’re a new recruit, it’s harder to tell. But, you must have seen something special in them, to offer them employment in the first place 🤔

If they’re an existing employee who’s usually quite good, could something have triggered the underperformance – either inside or outside of work? This is a situation that calls for a different kind of an approach. One with a tender touch

HAS THERE BEEN A WORKPLACE TRIGGER?

You’re not necessarily going to know what’s happening at home. Or, be able to control it.

What you can do, is consider if anything in your business could have triggered this change in behaviour or capability? Has your employee raised any complaints recently?

Workplace triggers might include:

😠 An incident involving conflict (an argument, a challenging one-to-one session

🙍 A significant change in the type of work your employee does

⏰ A change in hours or pay

🤝 A new client or supplier

📈 A sudden increase or decrease in volume of work

🏥 An accident in the workplace

IS IT YOU?

Okay, so it’s time for a bit of brutal honesty from me 👇

How a person feels about their job, is often shaped by their manager. Is that YOU?

It’s worth pondering over how clear you’re being about your expectations. Are you being plain enough? Are you providing frequent and useful feedback? Are you having regular one-to-one sessions to talk about performance, and to help your employee to be the best they can be?

If you’d rather poke your eye out than have an honest conversation about performance 😜 then I’ve written a blog entirely dedicated to this topic. Feel free to check it out here. 

GATHER THE EVIDENCE 👀

Often, when an employee isn’t pulling their weight, it’s down to a CAPABILITY issue, or a BEHAVIOURAL one. So, they either CAN’T DO what you want them to do, or they WON’T DO what you’re asking them to do.

The first thing you should do, is gather evidence. This is so you can eventually have a performance chat with your employee, that’s based on actuals and not hearsay.

Scribble down a couple of real examples of why you believe your employee isn’t pulling their weight.

Perhaps it was when they took a shortcut on a client project? 🤔 Or, maybe it was when they refused to cover a client meeting when you were busy yourself?

TAKE AN INFORMAL APPROACH FIRST

As a super-responsible employer 👌 you should be looking after the welfare of your people. So, asking them how they are, on a regular basis, is something that you’re probably already doing, right?

As part of your next one-to-one session, have a chat about the concerns you have. Be crystal-clear on what you’re expecting from them, and then give them a couple of real examples of where you feel like they’re falling short.

Ask open questions, like:

🤔 How do you feel things are going?

🤔 Can you tell me what you like and dislike about the job?

🤔 What could I be doing, to help you to be the best you can be?

🤔 How do you think you can allay my concerns?

LANGUAGE TO AVOID

As human beings, we often like to exaggerate to make sure that our point lands. But, when it comes to performance discussions, please don’t 🙏

Expressions like:

Everyone thinks…

You’re always…

You never…

Are often untrue and will exacerbate the situation, by making your employee feel worse about themselves 😓 Instead, stick to the facts 👍

IF NOTHING CHANGES, GO FORMAL

If nothing changes after your informal one-to-one session, it’s time to re-familiarise yourself with your company HR policy. In there, it should outline how your business formally deals with poor performance. You need to make sure you stick to what it says in your policy, so you don’t land yourself in hot water 🔥

If you don’t have a HR policy, don’t worry too much. In general, these are the formal steps you might want to take:

Step one 👉 Gather even more evidence to back-up your claims.

Step two 👉 Invite your employee – in writing – to a formal meeting to discuss their performance. Give them enough notice to attend, make sure it’s at a place they can get to, and say they can bring somebody with them if they like. For example, a colleague or union rep. You should also have somebody who’s ‘objective’ in the room to observe and scribble down notes.

Step three 👉 In the meeting, you should explain the concerns you have about your employee’s performance, using evidence to back-up your complaints.

Step four 👉 Allow your member of staff to put their points across.

Step five 👉 Be clear about what performance improvements you want to see and by when. And also, anything YOU’RE going to do differently.

Step six 👉 Put everything in writing to them afterwards, so there’s no room for doubt.

If nothing changes, repeat the process to allow them to put their side of the story forward one more time. But, if you’re unconvinced that things will get better – tell them in writing that they’re dismissed and why. Also, make it clear they have a right to appeal your decision.

MORE HELP FROM ME

People problems are tricky 😱 If you need someone on YOUR SIDE, that’s RIGHT BY YOUR SIDE, then there’s loads of ways I can help.

👉 Firstly, check out my online shop for loads of policies, procedures, and templates – all designed to make dealing with disciplinary matters easier for you. Including my DISCIPLINARY TOOLKIT

📲 Next, why not grab 60 minutes with me? I can help you to navigate your way through a sticky employee issue and make sure you handle things the right way 👍

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

✂ Nip performance issues in the bud. Even if when it’s super-uncomfortable to do so.

🤔 Contemplate if it’s normal for your employee to be like this. Is there something going at home? Or, has there been a workplace trigger?

🤳 YOU might be the cause. Have you considered that? Make sure you’re being crystal-clear what you expect from your staff.

💬 Start with an informal chat first, as part of your normal one-to-one meetings. But, watch your language to avoid embellishing the truth.

🔊 If there’s still no improvement, go down the formal route, sticking closely to what it says in your HR policy

📲 If all else fails, remember, I’m here and ready to help.

Feel free to book a free consultation with me if you have questions, and I can explain a bit more. 

Mandy Hamerla

Mandy Hamerla​


Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier. 

​www.modernhr.co.uk