LEADING OFF: CEO Challenge: Talk With a Failing Employee

My challenge for you this month: Tackle that difficult conversation with an underperforming employee.


In the vast majority of cases involving staff management problems, poor communication is the root cause. This comes in the form of goals and expectations that aren’t clear to one or more employees, lack of performance feedback from management and just plain avoidance of uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations.

Poor-performing employees cannot be expected to improve if they are not aware that they are underperforming.


To solve the underperforming employee issue:

  • Meet frequently with employees to review their performance.
  • Provide positive and constructive feedback, with an action plan for areas that are in need of improvement.
  • Schedule progress checkpoints to evaluate the employee’s strides in making improvements.
  • Be patient to start, but grow increasingly stern and candid if the employee’s performance is not improving.

Underperforming employees should be given frequent and candid feedback regarding their performance, your expectations and what needs to improve. Avoiding these talks not only hurts the practice, but it’s unfair to the employee. Before parting ways with an employee, ask yourself, “Did I provide adequate feedback to help the employee succeed?” To quote radio host Dave Ramsey, “To be unclear is to be unkind.” OM