How to manage low performers in your team?


Low performers are there in every team and every organization. Managers have difficulty managing low performers as they bring down the productivity and the overall performance of the organization. But not all are low performers and not always.
Businesses are adopting the lean management strategy where they focus on improving the quality of work with limited resources. This demands the managers to analyze their workforce and figure out low performers.


A typical example of bad leadership in the corporate world is comparing performances of peers and deeming an employee as a low performer instead of establishing clear roles and goals. Good managers tend to improve the performance of the team by motivating each team member to perform their best. If the performance starts to dip, here are a few tips to handle employees.

Work on the feedback

Managers should emphasize on performance by ensuring each team member gets adequate feedback on their performance. The feedback has to be direct and crisp. Leave out the long flowery preamble as employees only remember the negative feedback over the positive. This will give an idea for the employees as to where they stand and the way forward. Managers can also help low-performing team members by guiding them in every way possible.


While providing feedback, managers often tend to be stuck in recency bias. A productive employee might have hit a slump in recent times and take a lot of flak. It doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is a low performer. This is where empathy comes into play. Know your team members’ problems and give tips to figure them out. See if their low performance persists and then take action.

Clear Performance Goals

For effective team management, each employee should know what is expected from him/her and what they have been delivering. This will leave all kinds of communication gaps and help managers identify key factors of low performance.


Managers should sit with their team members and map out every key responsibility area. On one hand, you are not allowing any biases to fog your mind, everything is now data-driven. On the other hand, the employees will realize that you care about their career progress and work better to accomplish their respective goals. Ask them for inputs on how they can perform better and improve their performances. Assess their plan of action and guide them if their plan is not good.

Follow the 2×2 Performance-Potential matrix

After assessing the role, ability and performance of each team member, draw a Performance-Potential Matrix and place them in the matrix.

A Performance-Potential Matrix is a 2×2 grid where employees are mapped depending on their potential and performance. Potential can be determined from the skillset and past ability of the employees. Performance of the employee is observed months after the team manager has defined KRAs and action plan for them.


This matrix is used for making the manage out decision. If an employee is in the lower-left box, then he/she is the one who has to move out of the team. An alternative to this would be the famous Performance Improvement Plan developed by the HR of your organization.

Termination affects team morale

Once the manager had identified and fired the low performer, it changes the entire tone of the team. Employees start to fear about losing their job. There’s no evil greater than discouraged and mourning employees in an organization.

Sit with your team members and explain the reason for the firing. Legally, the company might not permit the manager to share specific details of the reasons why the employee was fired. But discussing the goals and providing an opportunity for employee to talk about their concerns gives them hope. Ask them to express if there’s any concern and assure them that the firing was in the best interest of the company. Answer their questions about job security with utmost honesty. This will stop rumors on job security spread like wildfire.


Praise the existing employees for their work. Acknowledge the good work done by other employees and highlight the reason you are thanking them by being sincere. This assuages the situation for time being.


Focus on lightening the environment by taking your team out for a team lunch. Engage your teammates in Outbound activities and exercises. This will lighten the mood in the office, increase productivity among team members which might have seen a slump after termination.