FREE Conversation Template for an Underperforming Employee

Updated: Mar 29

No one wants to have difficult conversations with employees who haven't met performance standards. They're difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable. And yet, they are necessary, and you need a reliable template to do them well.

One way to avoid this altogether is to hire well (check out this collection of posts on that topic.)

Here's a simple template to guide the dialogue. (Remember, don't have this conversation if you're angry, hungry, or tired. Little good will come of it)


Does your team member have the skills required to perform well in the job? Most often, employees don't arrive at work to do a terrible job and miss targets. Assume positive intent and have an honest conversation around their ability to actually do the work. Your role as a leader requires that you actively coach your people, so take this as an opportunity to impart new skills.


Does your team member have the bandwidth required to perform well in the job? Our work lives often exist in the midst of a whirlwind of competing demands, priorities, and deadlines. Your role as a leader is to create clarity for your team. Not everything is urgent, so when deadlines are about to be missed, have a conversation around what's vital in the next sprint and help them understand where to apply their focus.


Does your team member have the emotional connection required to perform well in the job? Don't make the mistake of jumping here first and assuming you've got someone who is lazy and spending their time shopping their resumé. Work through capability and capacity first. But if a pattern of behavior around missed deadlines emerges, it might be time to have an honest conversation around whether they really want to be there. If not, help them transition out as quickly as possible.

The Leader's Responsibility

In each case, the leader assumes responsibility for coaching, task prioritization, and casting vision so that the team member has the capability, capacity, and commitment to perform well.

At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. If you feel overwhelmed and need a proven system to focus on the next best thing, we can help. Companies who work with us see revenues go up, anxiety go down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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