How to Talk to an Employee Who Isn’t Meeting Expectations

How to Talk to an Employee Who Isn’t Meeting Expectations

Leading a team comes with many challenges, including handling performance issues. When an employee falls short, it’s essential to address it with care, understanding, and clear communication. Here’s a straightforward guide to having this important conversation successfully.

1. Prepare Thoroughly

Before initiating the conversation, gather all relevant information about the employee’s performance. This includes specific examples of where they are falling short, any documented feedback, and the expectations that have not been met. Understand the context, such as recent changes in their personal life, workload, or other factors that might be influencing their performance.

Read also 10 Examples Of Feedback To Improve Behavior

2. Choose the Right Setting

Select a private, neutral location for the conversation. This ensures confidentiality and reduces the employee’s anxiety. A quiet, comfortable setting will help facilitate a more open and honest dialogue.

3. Set a Positive Tone

Start the conversation on a positive note. Express appreciation for the employee’s efforts and contributions to the team. This helps in building a foundation of respect and shows that you recognize their value despite current performance issues.

4. Be Specific and Objective

When addressing the performance issues, be specific about what isn’t meeting expectations. Avoid vague statements like “You need to improve” or “Your work isn’t good enough.” Instead, use concrete examples and data. For instance, “In the last three months, your project reports have been submitted late on five occasions, affecting our deadlines.”

5. Listen Actively

Give the employee a chance to share their perspective. Listen without interrupting and show empathy. There might be underlying issues such as lack of training, personal problems, or unclear instructions that are impacting their performance. Understanding their side of the story is crucial for finding a constructive solution.

6. Provide Clear Expectations

After discussing the issues, clearly outline what is expected moving forward. Define specific, measurable goals and the timeline for achieving them. This helps the employee understand precisely what needs to change and how their progress will be evaluated.

Read also How Do I Handle Negative Feedback from My Team?

7. Offer Support and Resources

Show your commitment to helping the employee improve. Offer resources such as additional training, mentoring, or adjustments in workload if necessary. Providing support demonstrates that you are invested in their success and are willing to help them overcome challenges.

8. Create a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

A Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a formal document that outlines specific areas for improvement, action steps, and the timeline for achieving these goals. It serves as a roadmap for the employee and provides a structured approach to improving performance. Ensure the PIP is realistic and achievable.

9. Follow Up Regularly

Schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress and provide ongoing feedback. These meetings should be constructive and focused on the employee’s development. Regular follow-ups show that you are serious about their improvement and are there to support them throughout the process.

10. Document Everything

Keep detailed records of all conversations, feedback, and steps taken. Documentation is essential for accountability and can be useful if further action, such as termination, becomes necessary. It also provides a clear record that the employee was given fair opportunities to improve.

11. Be Prepared for Any Outcome

Despite your best efforts, there may be cases where the employee does not improve. Be prepared to make difficult decisions, including reassignment or termination, if necessary. However, ensure that any action taken is in line with company policies and legal requirements.


Addressing performance issues is a challenging but essential part of leadership. By approaching the conversation with preparation, empathy, and clarity, you can foster a constructive dialogue that helps the employee understand their shortcomings and how to improve. Ultimately, this not only aids in their professional growth but also strengthens the overall performance of your team.

Read also How to write Job Descriptions in healthcare to attract millennials

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