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Managing Poor Performance Begins with Identifying the Cause

A successful business is one where employees give 100% to the workplace. Oftentimes, the reason why companies lag behind the competition is due to not managing poor performance the right way. A study revealed that companies with engaged employees make 2.5 times the revenue of competitors with low engagement levels.

In How Mid-Market Companies Can Develop High-Performers, we’ve outlined the five common causes of low performers to help the identify the root of poor performance:

1. The measures of individual and team performance are not spelled out and accepted.  People aren’t clear about what they should do and how their success will be accounted for.  Without good measures, people become political and try to stay on the boss’ “good side.”  Only 7% of Alliance members believe they have completely clear performance measures.  In fact, 60% do not measure employee performance.

2. The definitions of success and failure are not crystal clear.  Even if measures are in place, people aren’t sure at what point they have succeeded and will be commensurately rewarded.  More often, they aren’t sure at what level of poor performance —the failure point— they will they be dismissed.

3. Individual and team performance are not sufficiently visible throughout the organization.  Without such exposure, low performers can hide behind their team’s performance without detection or peer pressure. Without enough team exposure, people may act selfishly and not work as a team for the greater good—since nobody can tell how the team is performing.

4. The leader is not willing to make it emotionally uncomfortable for low performers.  People aren’t held accountable.  Deadlines are missed, results fall short and there are no consequences.  The leader doesn’t counsel poor performers, doesn’t push them or give them “extra attention.”  They’re not put on notice that if they don’t improve, they may be demoted or dismissed. In the Alliance survey, only 18% of CEOs report that their underperformers are “very uncomfortable,” with another 46% saying underperformers are “uncomfortable.”

5. The range between high performers and low performers is too great.  Average performers know that others on their team do much less, so they feel safe about easing up.  Top performers become arrogant and hard to manage since they are “so much better” than their peers.  From the recent survey, 82% of Alliance members believe they have an A player on the team, yet 50% believe their worst-performing executive rates a C+ or lower.  This means at least half the Alliance firms report an A player and a C+ or lower player on the same team.

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