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My Employee is Causing Me More Work Than He’s Worth; What should I do with my poor performing employee? Part 1

October 29, 2020








As any leader knows, an underperforming employee can challenge other employees, disappoint your clients, and affect your bottom line. When other employees have to compensate for a poor performing co-worker, company morale slides and others question your leadership. So how do you identify and address an underachieving employee?  

Over the next few weeks, Dave Massello and I will offer you a story about Sarah, the leader, Zach, a manager reporting to Sarah, and Brian, Zach’s direct report. We invite you to weigh in with comments on how to handle an issue with Zach.


Zach walked into his boss’s office. Sarah sat behind her large desk; various reports and folders littered the top. Although she appeared unorganized, each evening before she left, every document found its perfect place.

“Zach, you look troubled,” she said while she straightened a few stray papers.
Zach took a moment and inhaled deeply.

“I am.” He paused to gather his thoughts. “I want to talk to you about Brian. We hired him almost a year ago to the day, and we have a few troubling issues with him.”

Sarah remarked, “I don’t often run into Brian around this office. As I recall, he is a graduate of Purdue – worked at our competitor for four years, and, as I remember from my interview with him, quite the soccer player,” Sarah added. “Really bright young man.”

“Yes, that’s Brian.”

“We all believe he has quite a future here. I gather something has gone off the rails?” Sarah asked.

“Well, our biggest client, Landcore, sent back a few reports with questions about Brian’s calculations and conclusions. So I began to review his work more closely, which, by the way, takes me away from the work I need to do. It’s not like Brian stumbles over himself all the time. It’s little things—an error here, an oversight there. I even reviewed five or six other reports that we sent to Landcore, which Landcore had accepted, but I was disturbed to find more errors that probably cost Landcore money. “

Zach continued, “Well, I talked to Brian, pointing out the mistakes, and showed him how to correct them. So today, I reviewed another of his reports, and he had made similar but different errors.”

Sarah looked thoughtful, then spoke, “Did we make a hiring mistake?”

Zach looked towards the floor for a moment. “I like Brian.  He’s technically good and works well with the customers, but I have to dig into his work to overcome his errors. I don’t have the time to do this.”

Sarah inquired, “Does he need more training? Is this issue something we can fix?”

“Yes, he could use more training, but I don’t have the time. Every moment I work with Brian, I take away from an important project or delay building connections with a valued client. To find his mistakes and correct them took me well into the evening, an evening I’d rather have spent with my wife and kids.”

Sarah added, “And if you don’t correct his issues, you have an unhappy client, rework, and you don’t get YOUR work done.”

Sarah had been struggling for several years over how to train people while, at the same time, delivering top service to clients. Her company’s high-profit margins expectations challenge her and her department. There weren’t enough hours in the day.

Zach had a look of resignation on his face. “I hate to say this, but I think I’m going to have to take stronger action, a performance improvement plan, and perhaps eventual termination.”

Sarah paused for a moment then responded, “I’m not yet in complete agreement, but it's your group. I’m reluctant to move too quickly. Contact HR and help them think through how you should approach Brian.”

Later that day, Sarah read an article on LinkedIn that offered one of those “ah-ha” moments.  She thought to herself that she might have the answer to her training issues. Perhaps there is a less time-consuming way to train and develop people.

In the next article of this series, Sarah hears more bad news, and the problems worsen... but what she finds in the LinkedIn article gives her hope.

In the meantime, what should she do? Please comment!

  • Should the company terminate Brian and find someone else? She likes Brian, and besides, he has two young children.
  • Should she bring in an external coach to help Brian?
  • How could she and Zach train Brian to be more effective and still serve customers?
  • Other ideas!

Send Dave or me an email, and we will send you a chapter from Vince’s #1 International bestselling book, Expert Performance: Achieve Extraordinary Results with the Team You Have – Guaranteed!