How to deal with a low performing employee

Listen on:

There are a million clichés about leading versus managing but essentially it breaks down to trying to force people to do things versus motivating and enabling them to do them. This sounds warm and fuzzy, but how do you actually do this when your employee is wasting so much of your time and impacting the team?

Being a strong leader through the process requires you to lead the relationship. But how do you do that?

All relationships are made up of 3 aspects:

  1.     What you think of them
  2.     What they think of you
  3.     What you think of you

Let’s assume you are at the stage where your employee is on a formal performance plan. Here’s how the 3 relationship aspects might play out.  

What do you think of them? Do you think they are going to make it? Are you assuming they are doing their best? Do you communicate expectations clearly, but assume they are going to start missing deadlines quickly?

Are you so irritated you’re annoyed at everything related to the employee. Emails from them in their inbox make you angry, 1:1 meetings put you in a bad mood, and you try to avoid any extra contact with them?

How’s that working out for you?

What if you decided to be a leader and actually lead them. Clearly communicate the expectations and offer support if they choose to do the work. Set clear consequences both positive and negative and be willing to enforce them. Tell them things they are doing well and actually mean it. Find ways you are just like them. My guess is you would be defensive if your manager thought you weren’t meeting expectations, just like them.  

Be the leader. Genuinely want them to succeed at getting off the plan or finding a better fit job. Make sure you like how you feel about them.

What do they think of you? This step is the easiest. What they think of you is none of your business. It’s irrelevant. Only they can feel it so stop trying to control them and let them think whatever they want about you. It says more about them than you. 

I’m not saying to have an arrogant attitude of not giving a crap, but don’t waste any time even thinking about what they think about you. “Not giving a crap” is just another way you think they are not worth your time. 

What do you think of you? This is where you get to step up as a leader. Do you think you don’t have time for this or can’t afford to let this person drag the team down? Do you think they are a problem because of the problems it’s going to cause for you?

 Why would you give someone who is not meeting expectations that much control over how you feel? You get to think whatever you want about yourself so stop the pity party. Stop letting them dictate how your day goes.

When you lay your head down on the pillow at the end of the night, do you want to feel exhausted from what a problem this is for you?  Or do you want to feel proud because you showed up with compassion offering them the chance to improve? Do you want to feel proud that you were willing to have the hard conversation and that you grew as a leader through it? Do you want to feel love because you honestly care about people?

It’s all up to you. Making sure that you feel good and know you are a great leader is what’s going to help you act like one. Start believing in your ability to lead the relationship. You got this. You are there to support your employee in whatever they decided to do. Because you are a leader.

Stop obsessing over what you can’t control and start controlling what you can. You get to choose how you think about them. You get to choose what you think about yourself. Hurt people, hurt people. So, focus on showing up as a leader and go all in. You got this!

If you want help applying this to your specific situation, let’s jump on the phone and come up with a plan together. Sign up for free coaching HERE

Chat soon,


3 Steps to Deal with a Bad Manager - Free Workshop

Bad leaders cause a lot of churn, constant changes in priorities kill your timelines, and the anxiety from the next unknown escalation is not sustainable.

Learn the proven 3 steps to deal with a bad manager. 

Share this post

Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

Enter your info to get the 3 Steps to Deal With A Bad Manager free workshop

Please read my privacy policy to see I take your privacy seriously.