How To Motivate Underperforming Employees: 30 Proven Tips

Having a motivated and productive team is crucial for the success of any organization.

However, it’s not uncommon to encounter underperforming employees who lack the drive and enthusiasm needed to excel in their roles.

As a leader or manager, it is your responsibility to motivate and inspire these individuals to improve their performance.

In this article, we will explore effective strategies to motivate underperforming employees and help them unleash their full potential.

Table of Contents

Why Do Employees Feel Get Demotivated In The First Place? 

Here we will be discussing the various reasons why employees feel demotivated in the first place. 

The first reason is that they are not given any feedback on their performance and/or progress. This can be a result of poor communication between managers and subordinates, or simply due to a lack of training.

Another reason is that they are being asked to do tasks that are beyond their current skill level. 

This may happen when they are required to take on responsibilities that they aren’t trained for. In addition, some employees may feel demotivated because they are overworked.

Other reasons include:

  • 1 They are being asked to work overtime without pay.
  • 2 They are not allowed to use vacation days.
  • 3 They are not given enough breaks during the working day.
  • 4 They are not given sufficient time off.
  • 5 They are not provided with proper equipment.
  • 6 They are not paid fairly.
  • 7 They are not treated as equals.
  • 8 They are not trusted.
  • 9 They are not appreciated.
  • 10 They are not recognized for their contributions.
  • 11 They are not promoted.
  • 12 They are not rewarded for their hard work.
  • 13 They are not offered adequate compensation.
  • 14 They are not encouraged to learn new things.
  • 15 They are not included in decision-making.
  • 16 They are not consulted.
  • 17 They are not considered part of the company culture.
  • 18 They are not valued.
  • 19 They are not respected.
  • 20 They are not listened to.
  • 21 They are not invited to participate in meetings.
  • 22 They are not informed about changes.
  • 23 They are not involved in decisions.
  • 24 They are not told what is expected of them.
  • 25 They are not shown appreciation.

Reasons Why Your Employees Are Underperforming At Work

reasons why your employees are underperforming

A workplace is a place where we spend most of our time. We are there for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and sometimes even more than that.

Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you get the best out of your employees so that they perform at their peak levels.

Here are the main reasons why employees underperform at work:

Lack Of Training

Training is very important if you want to ensure that your employees perform at their best. It enables them to understand how to complete certain tasks properly and efficiently.

Poor Communication

If you have poor communication skills, then this could lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. This could cause problems within the workplace, especially if the issue involves money.

Inadequate Resources

If you don’t have enough resources, then you might find it difficult to train your employees properly. You should also consider investing in quality tools which are needed by your staff. For example, if you don’t have an office printer, then you need one.

Not Enough Time Off

It’s important to give your employees time off. They need to relax and unwind from all the stress that comes with work.

However, if you don’t provide them with enough time off, then they won’t be able to recharge their batteries and prepare themselves for another busy day.


If you ask your employees to work long hours, then they will eventually burn out. When they start feeling tired, stressed, or exhausted, they will struggle to perform at their best.

Low Expectations

If you set low expectations for your employees, then they will never meet those standards. Instead, they will focus on meeting your lower expectations. This can result in disappointment and frustration.

Unfair Treatment

There will be some people in management or leadership who may treat their employees unfairly because they are insecure and feel threatened by their own employees.

 Others may do this because they don’t like them personally. Either way, it’s unfair to treat your employees badly.

Negative Attitude

A negative attitude towards your employees can lead to bad working relationships.

If you have a positive attitude towards your employees, then you will encourage them to improve their performance.

Neglecting Their Needs

You must always remember that your employees are human beings too. They need to eat, sleep, exercise, and socialize just like anyone else.

If you neglect their needs, then you are only hurting your company and the overall productivity of the office workforce.

Stressful Working Environment

Working in a stressful environment can negatively affect your employee’s health. This includes high workloads, lack of support, poor management, and bullying.

Things You Need To Keep In Mind Before You Motivate Underperforming Employees

Motivation is the process of getting someone to do something they would not otherwise do. In an organization, motivation refers to a person’s willingness and ability to perform his or her job duties.

Employees can be motivated by many different factors.

Some people are intrinsically motivated; others are extrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation comes from within and is based on personal values and beliefs.

Extrinsic motivation comes through rewards and punishments. When you motivate your team members, you should keep in mind the following:

  • 1 Make sure your goals match theirs: You may think you are motivating your staff when you give them a raise or bonus, but if those raises and bonuses aren’t aligned with what they truly value, then they won’t be as motivated as they could be.
  • 2 Don’t force motivators on your employees: If you tell them they must work overtime every week, they will resent you. Instead, let them know why they should put in extra hours.
  • 3 Be specific: When you ask your employees to do something, make sure you explain exactly what needs to happen. Otherwise, they might assume you mean one thing and you meant another.
  • 4 Give frequent positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is much more powerful than negative reinforcement. For example, instead of telling your employees “You did a good job today,” say “I noticed how well you handled this situation.”
  • 5 Reward performance: Rewards can be anything from cash bonuses to praise. They can also include things like free meals, gift cards, and other perks.
  • 6 Avoid punishment: Punishment doesn’t motivate anyone. It only makes people angry and creates resentment.
  • 7 Keep your promises: If you promise to pay a certain amount of money, make sure you follow through. Otherwise, your employees will lose respect for you.
  • 8 Remember to have fun!: People are naturally motivated by having fun. So, try to find ways to incorporate games, contests, and other activities into your workplace.

In order to motivate underperforming employees, you first need to understand what motivates them. Then, you need to figure out how to get them excited about their jobs again.

Ways On How To Motivate Underperforming Employees 

top ways to motivate underperforming employees

Understand Your Team Members’ Values

The best way to motivate your employees is to understand what really drives them.

Ask yourself these questions: What does my employee want most out of life? Why is he or she working here? What are his or her core values? How does he or she see himself contributing to our company?

These answers will help you determine whether you are giving him or her everything that she/he wants.

Find Out Their Goals

Once you have determined your employee’s values and goals, it’s time to set goals that align with those values. This is where your employee’s true potential shines through.

Ask Yourself an Important Question

All employees should be aware of what they’re expected to do. If you don’t lay out the purpose of joining the company clearly, they won’t know if they’re underperforming as they don’t know what is expected of them. 

 As the boss, it’s important for you to ask yourself important questions.

  • Have all employees been made aware of what they need to do?
  • Do they understand the potential consequences of them not performing well? 
  • Are they getting regular training programs regarding it, like face-to-face training, training materials, or otherwise?

If your employees aren’t even aware of their own failures, then it’s necessary to educate them, not confront them.

Create a Work Environment That Fit Their Needs

You don’t want to create an environment that is too stressful for your employee. However, you also don’t want to provide him or her with too much freedom and flexibility. A balance between the two is key.

If your office is dull and boring, then you won’t be able to motivate your employees to work hard enough for their jobs.

Well, you certainly don’t want to change your office into a theme park, so it can be fun but your workplace also should not be always over-the-top serious. 

Let your employees have some space to express themselves, even if they’re not in your office. If employees want to use beanbags for working, then provide them with beanbags.

If employees prefer to complete tasks while they’re drinking their morning coffee, let them.

Encourage Your Employees To Take Ownership

If you give your employees ownership over the process, they’ll feel more invested in it. This means that they will take pride in the outcome, which leads to greater motivation.

Keep Emotions Out of It

When discussions with employees become too emotional, they become much harder to get on the same team. You can’t be all accusing or threatening because that won’t work.

The best foot forward is to remain calm and take one step back. 

Now, just collect your thoughts when you go ahead to talk to an underperforming employee because you wouldn’t want to step on the wrong foot with your employee. 

You should always keep these conversations about business first. Otherwise, they may get personal.

Provide Feedback Regularly

Feedback is crucial because it allows you to identify areas where your employee needs improvement.

By providing feedback regularly, you’re able to keep your employee focused on the right tasks.

Jot Down A List Of What’s Not Working

Before you have an impor­tant conversation with your underperform­ing employee, you should set some time aside to figure out what’s going wrong.

Think about the core issues and write down things that aren’t working for this employee.

List out the categories for which you want to know the most recent examples of times they performed poorly, how they let their team down, and what specifically they did wrong.

A good way to remember specific examples of poor performance is by having a list of them.

 Offer Opportunities For Growth

One way to encourage growth among your team members is to offer opportunities for advancement. You should also consider offering training programs so that your employees can learn new skills.

This will help them grow as well as help you retain the best talent in your company.

You must be able to recognize when an employee is not performing up to par and then take action immediately. If a worker is not working hard enough, he or she might need to be fired.

However, you shouldn’t fire someone just because his or her job isn’t doing well. Instead, try to find ways to improve the situation.

You must remember to never make promises that you won’t be able to keep. If you do, you could end up losing credibility with your employees.

Instead, you should focus on making sure that your workers are satisfied with their current positions and offer growth opportunities accordingly. 

Knowing the Strength And Weaknesses Of Your Employees

It is also important for managers to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their employees.

This can help you better understand what motivates them, how they work best, and what types of rewards will motivate them the most.

It is a great tool for helping you manage your team effectively. You should also make sure that you are aware of any potential problems before they occur.

This helps you avoid situations where you might lose valuable resources.

Be Consistent With Performance Reviews

Your employees will appreciate consistency when it comes to reviews. Make sure that you review your employees at least once every six months.

Give Them Credit Where Credit Is Due

Your employees deserve credit for any successes they achieve. When you do this, you show them that you value them as individuals and not just as workers.

Make sure you recognize the achievements your team is able to get on the projects. 

It shows them that their hard work is appreciated and it encourages them to continue working on projects.

Talk To Your Employees About What They Want 

You can always just sit down with your employees and figure out what they want and how you can help them. Well, it is certainly way better than guessing what may be most important to them.

It is best to include your employees when creating individual performance targets. Ask them how they’d like to improve, what goals they’d like to achieve, and whether they’d like to learn any new skills.

You can set your goals using the best goal-setting strategy called the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-framed) model.

When you are talking about performance with an employee, ask questions in combinations, such as “What did you think about the project?” “How was the project

  • What can we do to prevent these performance issues from happening again?
  • We’re working hard to ensure that these issues are improved.
  • What can other members of the team do to help out?

Pay Detailed Attention To Your Employee 

When you pay attention to details, you demonstrate that you care about your employee’s well-being.

You will also show the employee that you are a good manager by taking time out of your busy schedule to do something for them.

When you take time out of your day to help an employee with their work or personal problems, it shows that you care about them.

Don’t Forget About Employee Retention

Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s business owners. If you want to retain your current staff, then make sure that you treat them like family.

Retaining your employees is essential if you want to keep your company running smoothly.

If you don’t have enough people to cover all of your shifts, then you may need to hire more staff. However, if you do this too quickly, then you risk losing your existing employees.

In case you lose your key employees, then you could face serious financial difficulties. This means that you’ll be forced to cut back on your costs and potentially close your doors.

If you don’t have enough money to meet payroll, then you should consider asking your friends and relatives for some extra cash or finding other financial resources.  

This way, you won’t have to worry about paying your bills while you look for new employees.

Offer Your Employees Rewards 

If you want people to stay in your company, you need to give them reasons to. Motivating employees requires an incentive system to be implemented.

Whether it is a bonus structure that is better than your competitors or a commission structure that pays more than your competitors, you must be willing to pay your employees well for the good work that you know they will do.

If employees know they’ll get rewards for their good performance, they’ll be more likely to perform well and stick around to see things through.

Keep Communication Open

Open communication is a great way to foster teamwork and collaboration. It ensures that everyone knows what s/he needs to be successful.

keep communication open to your employees. Tell them that they are welcome to have a conversation anytime they want. 

Make it extremely easy for your employees to open up with their superiors and lay out their problems, concerns, complaints, or solutions. 

Show Your Appreciation

People love to know that their efforts are appreciated. When you express gratitude for all that your employee has done, s/he will feel valued and motivated to continue doing great work.

Appreciating your employees shows that you care about them. This encourages them to keep improving their performance.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is another effective way to ensure that your employee is happy and productive.

This includes setting expectations regarding how long he or she expects to spend working each day, as well as how many hours s/he can expect to put into his or her job.

Consider Giving Them Flexible Hours

Some people thrive while working flexible hours. Others prefer to stick to regular hours. Regardless of what works best for your employee, remember that you need to respect his or her preferences.

Allow Your Employees To Work From Home

The world of work is changing. The way we do business, the nature of our jobs, and the tools we use to get things done are all evolving at a rapid pace. 

People want to have the ability or flexibility to work from home, but they also want to be to have the option of coming into the office when they want or need it.

It can take a lot of trial and error before you get the balance right. But once you do, your employees will thank you for making this option available to them.

Apart from that, not all employees enjoy coming into the office every day. They’d rather stay home and work from there.  In fact, some maybe even better at productivity with that.

If this describes your employee, then allow him or her to work from home.

Give Them A Chance To Grow

Your employees should always be given the opportunity to grow and develop. They should be allowed to advance within their positions if they show promise.

This means that you should not only offer promotions but also mentoring programs.

You should also allow your employees to learn new skills so that they can be more valuable to your organization.

Encourage Social Interaction

Encouraging social interaction is an excellent way to motivate your employees. This includes encouraging them to go out with co-workers after work, attend sporting events together, etc.

Encourage team-building activities. These can be as simple as a group dinner or a company picnic. 

You could also encourage the use of video games or other fun activities that are not related to work. Team building will help you and your employees bond and become closer as a result.

Be Honest And Respectful With Your Employee

Poor leadership is one reason why employees leave their jobs and look for new ones. If you’re respectful and honest with underperformers, they’ll be respectful and honest with you back.

You cannot lie to your employees. If you tell them one thing but actually do something else, you’re going against everything that you’ve been trying to teach them.

They’ll see right through it and lose trust in you. So don’t try to hide anything from them.

You need to be more open and honest in your approach or what you think in the professional regard of a particular employee. 

Great leaders don’t cheat and aren’t afraid of the truth. They’re honest and truthful. If you know your staff needs to perform better, you must tell them the truth.

Treat your employees well, but don’t be afraid to tell them when they’re wrong.

Setting Up Training Plans & Programs With Your Employees

Training programs help your employees develop new skills and knowledge. As a result, s/he will become more valuable to your company.

If an employee doesn’t want to be part of a training program,you cannot do anything to uplift their performance or their other skill sets. 

According to Joseph Weintraub, a professor at Babson College, when someone says that they won’t change, you as a manager must decide whether you can live with it and at what cost.

If underperforming employees don’t want to be trained, they need to be laid out a strong plan for improvement.

You should train employees on their expected performance, and you should always ask them if your training can be better.

Provide your employees with new knowledge and skills that benefit both you and their future careers.

Recognizing And Rewarding Improvements

Employees seek some recognition when they’ve completed a task. If you reward them for their improvement, that’s even better.

When your employees do good work, give them recognition. This could mean anything from a pat on the back to promotion.

However, make sure that you recognize your employees for their effort and not for the outcome. For example, if you notice that one of your employees is consistently late, let him or her know that you appreciate their hard work.

Rewarding good behavior is another effective way to motivate your employees to perform better.

For example, if your employee does a good job on a project, then reward him or her by giving him or her a gift card or cash bonus.

If an employee puts out a lot of their precious time working on a particular project, or if they are pushing their limits to help out another employee, don’t hold back, address it and praise them.

It’s not just about the act of recognizing something, but the principle behind it.

If people feel appreciated for their efforts, they will be motivated to keep working hard on their projects. According to GloboForce, 78% of employees say they’d work harder if they were given more recognition.

Recognize employees when they perform well because of their actions that align with the company’s strategy.

Identify both the big and the smaller wins achieved, and highlight the extent to which your employees are team players.

Offer Upward Mobility Opportunities

Offering upward mobility opportunities is another effective way to encourage your employees to strive for success. This means offering promotions and raises to those who excel in their jobs.

It’s also important to provide a positive work environment, which includes providing an office that is comfortable and conducive to productivity. 

Your employees are going to be more motivated to work if they feel like they have the confidence to get successful at it.

When you invest in your employees’ development, they’ll be more likely to share their expertise with others.

In addition, they’ll have a greater sense of belonging to your organization. They’ll also become more loyal and committed to your business.

Recognize Achievements

Recognizing achievements is yet another effective way to motivate underperforming employees. You should recognize your employee’s accomplishments whenever possible.

Make Sure Your Office Is Clean And Well-Maintained

If your office isn’t clean and well maintained, it could discourage your employees. This becomes more important for offices where employees have to come to the office daily, more of traditional work culture. 

Make sure that you provide a comfortable work environment for your employees. If they are not happy with their working conditions, they will be less likely to perform at their best. 

Make sure that your office has everything that an employee needs to do their job effectively.

A clean and organized office also makes it easier for your employees to get things done quickly.

Give Regular As Well As Positive Feedback

Employees want to feel satisfied with their work. Fulfilling your duties is one of the key factors for job satisfaction.

Regular feedback helps your employee improve upon his or her weaknesses. This also motivates him or her to do better next time around.

Feedback is essential to any business. Without feedback, you won’t know whether your employees are doing a good job or not.

 Giving feedback is a very delicate process, so it becomes even more important that your sure employees know that not all feedback has to be always negative, it can be positive or constructive as well. 

Even if your employees do something wrong, don’t dwell on their mistake, but instead focus on what they did correctly.

Promoting Teamwork Amongst Employees

If you’re not a team player, then you won’t be able to motivate your employees effectively. This is because they’ll assume that you don’t care about their success.

Teamwork is a key ingredient for success in any organization. It helps us to achieve goals, it makes the work more enjoyable and it provides a sense of belonging.


Motivating underperforming employees calls for a proactive and varied approach. Identify reasons for underperformance, set clear expectations, offer support and feedback, provide training, recognize progress, create a positive environment, encourage open communication, empower employees, implement incentives, foster continuous improvement, lead by example, address underperformance promptly, promote work-life balance, and seek employee input.

This will inspire them to reach their full potential.


How long does it take to motivate underperforming employees?

Motivating underperforming employees is a continuous process that takes time and effort. The timeframe may vary depending on individual circumstances, but with consistent application of motivational strategies, positive changes can be observed over time.

What if the underperformance persists despite efforts to motivate?

If underperformance persists despite your best efforts, it may be necessary to explore other options such as reassigning tasks, providing additional training or support, or considering disciplinary actions. Consult with hr or seek guidance from higher management if needed.

3. Is it possible for underperforming employees to become top performers?

Absolutely! With the right support, guidance, and motivation, underperforming employees can transform into top performers.

By addressing the underlying issues, providing opportunities for growth, and fostering a supportive environment, individuals can unlock their potential and excel in their roles.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my motivational strategies?

To measure the effectiveness of your motivational strategies, you can track key performance indicators (KPIs) related to productivity, quality, employee satisfaction, and engagement.

Regular feedback sessions and performance evaluations can also provide insights into the progress made by underperforming employees.

Can underperforming employees demotivate other team members?

Yes, underperforming employees can have a demotivating effect on other team members.

It is crucial to address underperformance promptly to prevent it from spreading and negatively impacting the overall team morale and productivity.

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