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  • Writer's pictureNikki Trotter, MS, M.A., SHRM-CP, ACC

Do you know why your employees are failing?

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

If you have ever had an underperforming employee you know that it is absolutely no fun at all. It is not only difficult it can also be disappointing because as leaders we put a lot of time and effort into #coaching and #developing our employees. So, when we have an employee that is failing to meet deadlines, produce quality work, and generate key outcomes, it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining and frustrating. But before you can help them, you really need to understand the reason they have not been successful in performing the roles and responsibilities of the job in which they were hired to do. If this is one of your leadership challenges, check out these 10 reasons why your employee may be underperforming.

  1. They don't know that they have to do it. Your employee may not be aware that they are responsible for a specific duty or task. Review their job functions with them at least on a quarterly basis to ensure that they are doing the job that they were hired to do, and they are doing it confidently and effectively.

  2. They don't know what they're supposed to do. Check-in with your employees daily to see how they are feeling about their work, and to see if they are facing any major or minor obstacles that are keeping them from excelling in their roles.

  3. They don't know how to do it. Sometimes our employees would rather "fake it until they make it" for the fear of not being seen as competent or being deemed as a "bad hire." If this is the case, try to stress-test your employees' abilities by quickly addressing the challenges or issues they are experiencing.

  4. They don't think your methods will be effective. This is a great time to find out what methods your employees believe would work best for them. Tap into that and empower them to get their work done with 100% complete autonomy.

  5. They think their approach is better. Again, encourage your employees to stretch their abilities and capabilities and find the solutions to their own problems by thinking outside of the box and creating a psychologically safe space for them to fail and learn from their mistakes.

  6. They think there is something more important for them to do. Your employees are hungry and they know that their talents may best serve you as a leader and the organization in a different capacity or space. Set them free and allow them to spread their wings by doing additional tasks and responsibilities.

  7. They don't think there are any positive incentives for them to do. These may be your high performers, yet they are not highly rewarded. Recognize them often and make sure they know that they are respected and above all; valued.

  8. They have personal situations that stand in their way. Remember that your employees are more than just an employee. Therefore, if your employees have personal issues that are affecting their professional life, they will not be as successful or impactful as they can be. Develop more empathy and become the servant leader that they need; especially when your employees' home-life is affecting their work-life.

  9. They think they are already doing it. Sometimes an employee may truly believe that they are doing a great job, yet in your eyes, they are missing the mark. Level setting expectations and clearly articulating what they are lacking, and what they need to do to improve is the most effective way to help your employees hit or exceed their target or goals.

  10. Nobody can do it. Employees know when they have the "it" factor. They know that they are hard to replace and that their skills are coveted. Don't allow this mentality to become complacent and produce work that is below the line. Keep them engaged in highly visible and challenging projects and assignments.

For a confidential coaching conversation on how to coach and develop your employees more effectively and create a winning team, please contact me at

Nikki Trotter is the Founder and CEO of IO, LLC., a transformational coaching company. I specialize in coaching professional women in leadership from the front line to the C-Suite. I help my clients master the art of resilient leadership to take control of their careers with courage, clarity, and confidence.

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