Reasons for Employee Underperformance

Employees are different in a multitude of ways. Some employees would like to work on flexible hours, while others might have a fixed time for their work. Some employees want to work from the office, while others might prefer a hybrid or remote work model. Understanding that some employees may underperform in their duties is also crucial. 


To manage the employees who underperform in your company, you need to understand the causes of the underperformance in employees and address them quickly. If it is not properly addressed, it could cause the other employees to become lethargic, which can cause loss for the company.


What Is Underperformance?

Underperformance is when the employee does not exhibit the level of performance expected from the company. 

For instance, the following points will give you an idea of what underperformance in an employee might look like:

  • When the employee does not show complete dedication to their work and, as a result, makes blunders.
  • When the employee does not comply with the work policies or adhere to the standard operating procedures.
  • When the employee does not respect other employees’ time and does not meet deadlines.
  • When the employee does not show the basic level of dedication or interest in performing their duties.
  • When the employee’s action negatively impacts other employees and makes them unproductive. This can bring down the overall performance of the team.
  • If the employee receives regular complaints from other employees, it is worth looking into.

It is important to note that the term “underperformance” might have a different sense of meaning for different companies. Having your own definition for this is excellent practice, so it is easier to spot employees who underperform. 


Tips to Identify Employee Underperformance

As much as it is vital to understand the reason for the underperformance of an employee, it is also necessary to have ways to identify an underperforming employee. 

Most companies would have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to quickly spot employees who do not meet the expected requirements. Without such clear indicators, you need to look for various ways to measure employee performance.

The following are some ways to identify underperforming employees:

  • Keep an eye on the feedback that targets a particular employee. Based on the nature of your business, it might be a customer complaining about an employee or other employees of your organisation complaining about one employee in particular.
  • Look out for the employees who miss deadlines. Investigate the reasons for missing the deadline. The employee might not be the reason all the time. It might be due to the lack of available resources, teammates not completing their work, or personal issues. Nevertheless, look into the reasons and give extra care to the employees who repeatedly miss their deadlines. 
  • Stay mindful of employees who are repeatedly late to the office and miss important meetings. Observing absenteeism in your company can give you an idea of the employees who provide extra work to their teammates or underperform by being late or absent from the office. 
  • The lack of motivation in employees indicates that they do not feel satisfied with the job. This means that the employee will not perform to their fullest since they do not have the drive to excel in their career.


Causes of Underperformance in Employees

There are various causes as to why an employee would underperform their duties. These causes might be something to do with the environment or other factors around them. It might also be personal to them. 

Regardless of the origin, it is necessary to understand the reasons for underperformance so that proper steps can be planned to overcome them.

The following are some of the reasons for employee’s underperformance:

  • The first place to look into when it comes to employee underperformance is to check if they understand their duties and responsibilities. A poor onboarding process often leaves the employee confused and makes it hard for them to grasp their role. 
  • When managing a team, if the team leader does not perform their duties properly, that can influence the employees and disrupt the entire team. Proper leadership is necessary to ensure that all the team members give their best.
  • Every employee expects a development framework for their career. They would like to learn new skills and improve their existing skills on the job and strive to perform better. When there is a lack of development in their current role, it harms the employee’s morale and can cause them to underperform.
  • When employees do not feel engaged with their job or the company, they tend to underperform and take the job for granted. This is why an employee engagement plan is necessary to keep them occupied and productive.
  • Sometimes, an employee’s skills and the job they are working on will not match. To put it in simple words, an employee who feels that they are the right person for the job usually performs better, since their skills and the job align well together.
  • The employee might be a star performer. Even those employees need a break from time to time. Employees’ overwork increases the possibility of burning out and, thus, performing poorly in their job.
  • The employee’s personal life might go through some severe issues, affecting them at work. This can hinder their concentration and make the employee underperform in their duties.
  • It is a given that not every employee will have the proper training to perform all of their duties. This means that the company is responsible for bridging specific skill gaps the employee might exhibit. When there is a lack of training, the employee might not perform to their fullest potential.
  • The office’s work environment often plays a massive role in the employee’s productivity. If the work environment and the peers are negative, this may impact productivity and contribute to employee underperformance.
  • The lack of motivation is a cause that should not be overlooked. Employees sometimes will not have the desire to perform their duties properly. This will make them care very little about the quality of their work. Employee underperformance is the result of a lack of motivation in employees.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the three main reasons for employee underperformance?

  • Lack of motivation.
  • Lack of career development.
  • Personal issues.


2. How do you identify underperforming Employees?

To identify underperforming employees, we can:

  • Analyse the feedback from customers and other employees.
  • Look for employees who miss deadlines.
  • Check for employees with no motivation for their job.


3. Is underperformance different from conduct issues?

Underperformance is an issue related to the employee’s competency concerning their job. Conduct issues are something that stems from the employee’s behaviour.



Employees underperforming is not uncommon. Every company faces this issue with their employees. Even the employees who show promising results during the early stages of their career may underperform in the later times. It is necessary to understand the reasons for employee underperformance to address them accordingly.







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