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What is the best way to address an underperforming employee?

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Q. What is the best way to tell an underperforming employee that the next strike is the last one?

1. Give them an ultimatum

When you’re giving an employee one last chance, it’s critical to give a deadline for improvement. This keeps the issue from dragging on and gives you time to evaluate if they are improving or even trying. The timeline should be short and keep the issue top of mind, so underperforming employees don’t linger in the wrong position for too long. — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

2. Explain standards beforehand

Explain performance standards and consequences before staff are even on the payroll. Offer warnings as reminders only. Most employees who know exactly where they stand will at least try to maintain good work and improve failings, but they will try to skate by on the status quo if they have a false sense of security. We want their best from first to last, even if it’s ultimately not good enough. — Manpreet Singh, Seva Call

3. Give them a formal write-up

A detailed formal write-up provides a clear statement that the underperforming employee’s job is in jeopardy. Often, verbal warnings are easily forgotten with time and alone are not enough to communicate to the employee the seriousness of the issues. — Phil Chen, Givit

4. Be specific with them

You should provide regular feedback to your employees on a weekly or monthly basis, so you don’t reach a situation such as this. But, it could still happen. Provide specific examples of how the employee’s actions are hurting the team and the company, and let them know what actions they should be taking instead. This may feel like micromanaging at first, but you’ll likely see results. — Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc.

5. Be direct

Make sure employees clearly understand your expectations and your process for performance management. If employees are underperforming, they should understand the consequences and timeline of when they’ll have to move on if they’re behavior doesn’t change. — Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

6. Have them set the bar

This is always a touchy subject, and emotions can run very high in these situations. One thing I’ve learned is that if you have your employees set their own goals that are in line with the company’s, then ultimately, they will succeed or fire themselves. At that point, just hold them accountable and don’t accept any excuses after they set the goals and fail to reach them. — Andrew Vest, Preferling

7. Have a policy in place

You shouldn’t have to tell them a strike is the last one. Most startups don’t have any policies in place regarding performance or discipline, so employees are confused and don’t know where they stand. I often recommend progressive discipline — a three strike policy — and encourage startups to clearly state what equals a strike and review performance in regular 30-minute intervals. — Susan Strayer LaMotte, Exaqueo

8. Create an employee handbook

We have an employee handbook that clearly states our company policy on what is expected from our employees. All steps of disciplinary actions are clearly laid out. — Phil Laboon, Clear Sky SEO

9. Set clear goals

Your employees should clearly know what the process of losing a job is when you hire them, so you don’t have to deal with unpleasant tasks such as this. Have quarterly performance discussions with your employees, and also coach them on how to improve their performance in the future. Establish realistic goals and rules that hold employees accountable to those goals. — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

10. Just say it

Be honest; be clear. Explain why and what, and just tell them, “The next strike is the last one.” Then, follow through, so the rest of your employees believe you. — Ty Morse, Songwhale