They can make or break you, and your business.

Great staff are indispensable. They’ll act without being asked, step up to each and every responsibility, and provide great ideas for your business.

They’re a rock that you rely on in fair weather and foul.

But underperforming staff, or staff whose performance is borderline, is the bane of every business owner’s existence.

They’re time-consuming and exhausting to manage. And they can put a real dent in the profitability and success of your business.

They’re like faulty wiring that can leave you standing in the dark at the worst possible moment.

And addressing the problem often falls into the too hard basket. Like the cupboard door that’s falling off its’ hinge, we put up with it.

We get used to propping them up. We encourage their inadequacy by disregarding their shortcomings or getting others to complete their tasks.


Because we don’t know how to deal with the problem effectively.

And the thing is that it’s not that hard. It’s really just a matter of letting them know what’s on your mind and asking how the problem can be fixed.

Of course, you need to know how to do that elegantly so you get the result you’re after.

So here are a few guidelines.

Don’t Act In Haste

Don’t take action when you’re angry or tired or emotional. We’ve all done – and we know the result.

It’s not pretty. It’s a recipe for conflict, not for a productive working relationship.

So if you feel your anger rising, or you know you’re not at your best, step away from the situation. Deal with it when you’re calm.

You’ll be able to think clearly and you’ll be more in control.

Find Some Time

Make a time to talk to the person one-on-one. Ensure you’ll be able to speak privately, without being overheard or interrupted.

This conversation requires both of you to be fully present, with no distractions.

And allow ample time for the discussion. You both need to feel you have plenty of time to discuss the issues so you come up with an effective course of action.

Remember Staff are People Too

The most important thing to remember is that staff are people too. They have feelings and when you’re giving feedback the outcome that you want is improved performance.

You need to inspire them, so they want to do more and be better. Trampling over their emotions and efforts won’t encourage them to try harder.

Pretend you’re the staff member and think about how you’d like to be treated. Most people have a few basic requirements when it comes to feedback.

They’d like you to:

  • Be sincere
  • Be specific
  • Acknowledge their good thinking and ideas
  • Demonstrate trust and confidence in them

So how do you do that when you’re giving people feedback that’s not entirely positive?

Maintain Self-Esteem

In order to get a great outcome, you need to maintain your own self-esteem, but also the self-esteem of your staff.

Be sensitive to the other person’s feelings and treat them with respect. Help them to maintain their confidence and self-worth by taking a coaching approach.

You can do this by:

  • Focusing on the behaviour or issue, not on the person.
  • Respecting and supporting them, even when you feel frustrated and they’re not performing at their best. Practice providing feedback in a way that empowers your team to do better.
  • Not jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. These can damage self-esteem and relationships. Seek first to understand.
  • Keeping a balance between what a person has done well and what he or she can improve upon.


Here are a few examples.

Neg feedback

Of course, these guidelines are also useful when you’re giving positive feedback. Here are a few ideas.

Pos feedback

Stop Burying Your Head in The Sand

Ignore poor performance at your peril. It won’t go disappear. Instead it will nag at you like a festering sore.

Don’t let that happen.

Instead, make a time to talk to the person who’s causing concern. Treat them gently and with respect. Dig deep to find out what’s going on.

When you focus on the behaviour and the impact of their actions rather than focusing on the person, you’ll find the conversation is more productive.

Yes, it takes courage. Yes, it take patience. Yes, it can be uncomfortable.

But guess what?

These conversations can be the most constructive, important and valuable conversations you may ever have.

As Winston Churchill said:

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

So pluck up your courage and speak. But don’t forget to listen too.