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How to Handle Underperforming Team Members

We’ve all been there before – working with someone (or sometimes several people) who are consistently underperforming. These people can be project and team killers. Not only does their productivity (or lack thereof) hurt the project’s overall progress but the toll on other team members – either from picking up the slack or from hurting overall morale – can be significant. In this article I’ll give you some tips on how you as a leader can (and need) to deal with team members who are not measuring up.

Set and Communicate Expectations

To determine if someone is under (or over) performing, there needs to be a set of expectations that both the leader and the individual understand. Without a clear performance baseline that the individual is expected to meet, managing performance is almost impossible. Everyone needs to be crystal clear on what is expected of them (both leaders and contributors). By setting the bar you are establishing expectations and ensuring that you have a measuring stick by which your team members can be assessed.


Consistent monitoring of progress and performance is crucial to properly handling underperforming team members. Don’t try to be sneaky about it – be up front and ensure that individuals are aware of you monitoring their progress and performance. Weekly check-in meetings are a great tool for monitoring progress. Other options are to set and schedule benchmarks for performance (ex. Having a specific module coded and unit tested by a specific date is a great way to measure).


Most importantly, it’s your job as a leader to make sure that your people are successful. By communicating regularly with your team you can spot trouble signs early on and work with your team as a group or individually to help them be successful. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure that our teams are successful. We need to be doing all we can to make that happen. Perhaps you have a junior member who needs some mentorship – pairing them with a more senior member (where feasible) may be an option. Maybe one of your team is struggling with a complex technical issue – sending them for training or providing educational support is a big step to show how committed you are as a leader to them being successful.

Performance management can be a tricky task to do as a leader but it is absolutely critical to the overall success of your team that it is done effectively. By ensuring proper communications (open and honest!), setting clear expectations and a common understanding that you as a leader are there to help them as best you can you are ensuring that your team will have understanding and motivation to perform as best they can.

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