Motivate or Terminate Poor Performing Employees? 7 Questions for Leaders

Motivate or Terminate Poor Performing Employees? 7 Questions for Leaders image DATE: November 13, 2020

Do you have a poor performing employee? These 7 questions will help you know if it’s time to motivate or terminate the employee. Let’s dig in!

7 Questions for Leaders on Whether to Motivate or Terminate Poor Performing Employees

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if, as a leader, you should work to continue to motivate your employees or if it’s finally time to terminate them. At times, you may legally be required to terminate an employee. Other times, it’s an intangible test of the leadership…a test of your communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills.

Are these all the questions you should consider? No. However, these are the questions that will help you become a better leader to both the best and the worst performing employees.

1-Why did you hire them?

When you’re in the trenches with a poor performing employee, it’s easy to forget the magic that was there when you were in the interview process with them. Something had to make them stand out — that’s why you hired them! Remind yourself to view them through the positive lens you first saw them through. Doing this may shed new light on the performance issue at hand and help you find the energy to work to motivate them to better performance.

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2-How was their last performance appraisal?

First, hopefully, their last official performance appraisal wasn’t a year ago. Annual performance reviews aren’t the best…semi or quarterly performance reviews are better. With that being said, how was their last one? Did you discuss the issue at hand? If you didn’t discuss the issue in the last review, now’s the time to make the conversation official. It’s hard to know whether to motivate or terminate a poor performing employee if you aren’t both on the same page about their performance.

During a pandemic, should you still be doing performance appraisals? For the answer, check this out!


3-How much influence does the poor performing employee have in the organization?

If you’re dealing with someone whose word and performance carry a lot of weight, it’s even more important that you handle this situation correctly. An employee with big influence has the power to positively impact or negatively infect your entire organization — especially if everyone else is being affected by their poor performance. Leaders must communicate with the team — in a very calculated way — how the situation is being handled.


4-Should you consult a higher leader in a conversation with the employee?

Are you exhausted with the situation, maybe you feel like you don’t know what else to do? It’s probably a good idea to get a second opinion. Make sure you consult up the organizational chart, not down.


5-Do you know the poor performing employee’s strengths?

A leader should understand their direct report’s strengths. In order to earn the best performance from your employees, make sure you have them in a role that plays to their strengths. It’s possible that you don’t need to terminate them, instead, you need to move them.


6-What are their goals within your organization?

Do you know where your employee wants to be in the next 1, 5, 10 years, etc.? Does their current role help them achieve their goals? Do they understand how their role fits into preparing them for the future they want? If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to get talking…more importantly, it’s time to start listening.


7-Have you asked the employee to evaluate their own performance?

Does the employee see what is going wrong and how it affects them, their coworkers, and the organization? I’ll take that a step further…they may see the effects, but do they truly understand them? Ask the poor performing employee to answer those questions for you so you can make sure they actually understand the issue at hand.


I’ll go back to what I said at the beginning — these are not ALL the questions leaders should be asking when it comes to poor performing employees. I’d love to hear from you! What questions do you typically ask when you’re dealing with performance issues? Leave your answer in the comments below!


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About The Author:

Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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