an employer managing an underperforming employee

For insurance agency owners and managers, few things are more frustrating than having talented employees who underperform. If this is something you deal with, you have several viable options to manage underachieving employees more effectively. Ultimately, you aim to see a turnaround in both attitude and performance.

Solutions That Get Positive Results

Here are some proven solutions to help you deal with underperforming employees.

Start With Yourself

In some cases, the problem isn’t with the employee but rather, yourself. This is why it’s important to assess yourself before any of your staff. The following are some examples of questions to ask.

  • Do you provide clear directions?
  • Do you set and follow reasonable standards?
  • Are you demanding something that’s not humanely possible?
  • Are you providing your employees the continued training they need?
  • Do you offer an “open door” policy, so your employees feel free to talk about issues when they arise?
  • Does your agency have any kind of reward system in place?

Take stock of your leadership role. If necessary, make changes that create a positive work environment where employees feel compelled to do more and better.

Avoid Emotional Confrontation at All Costs

One of the primary reasons that employees underperform is they feel they’re constantly questioned, micromanaged, or even threatened. Even if you’re upset, get yourself in check before addressing the problem. You want to talk to your employees as a calm and reasonable leader who doesn’t come across as emotionally confrontational or abusive.

Get the Facts

Always gather all the facts about an incident before you sit down to talk with an underperforming employee. For example, if another staff member comes to you with a concern, you need to research and validate it. Armed with factual data, it is much easier to mentor rather than lecture a failing employee.

Straight Arrow

Effective insurance agency owners and managers understand the importance of shooting straight. That means when speaking with an underperforming employee, don’t beat around the bush. You need to be specific about the information shared and the changes you require. Not only does this ensure the worker has a clear understanding of the problem, but it also builds their trust in you.

Especially in the business world, honesty goes a long way. Now, when shooting straight, you don’t want to come across as harsh but honest and open. Say you have an employee who’s not complying with a particular company policy. By addressing the issue this way, you might discover the employee didn’t even know the policy existed.

In a case like this, always have a copy of the policies in hand when meeting with the worker. That way, you can point out the one in the manual they’re struggling to follow. The goal is to leave no room for misinterpretation of the issue and the changes you expect to see.

Don’t Wait to Deal With the Problem

It’s never easy to have a frank conversation with an employee, but when it comes to poor performance, you need to deal with the problem as quickly as possible. Again, be completely upfront.

One important note to consider: Some employees might be having a hard time in their positions not because they aren’t trying but because they don’t have the proper training or tools. By talking to the concerned workers as soon as possible, you can correct the problem much easier. Instead of employees developing bad practices, sign them up for the training they need.

Don’t Automatically Dismiss a Worker

Sometimes, insurance agency owners don’t mesh with certain employees. Called a “personality conflict,” if you’re in this situation, have another person in a leadership role take over. Just because you and a worker don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean they don’t add value to the agency.

If you tried, more than likely, the employee would struggle even more. You don’t want to lose talent just because of a conflict. So, rather than dismiss them, let another person of authority deal with the employee’s underperformance issue.

“Did You Hear Me?”

Listening isn’t the same as hearing and vice versa. If you address an underperformance problem the right way, the employee will take to heart what you say. Even then, it’s always a good idea to make sure they’re listening to you as opposed to hearing your words. So, during a conversation with an employee, ask them questions so you can verify they’re paying attention and absorbing the information.

Also, it never hurts to have everything in writing. You can bring an outline of the problem with you along with your expectations and recommendations for remedy. That way, the employee has something to refer back to if needed.

Last But Not Least

An employee who’s having a hard time performing at the required level might have things going on in their life outside of work. Now, you don’t need to delve into their personal business but before addressing the problem, ask them if everything’s okay. Often, an individual will open up without any prompting. However, even if they don’t, this gives you the chance to modify the way you approach the issue.

As an example, you have an employee with incredible talent. However, the quality and level of their performance over the past few weeks declined significantly. During a conversation with that person, you learn they just experienced the death of a close family member. Immediately, you can change course.

For a situation like that, rather than go over company policies, discuss moving them to a different position, or offer them time off. Of course, you’ll face times when an underperforming employee either can’t or won’t change. When that happens, you may have no choice but to let that person go, so you can bring someone on board who’s eager to learn, grow, and perform.