Reset Expectations And Other Tips For When A Remote Worker Is Underperforming

Approximately 10 million employees were already working remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more began teleworking since the pandemic, and many are continuing to work from home, even as some businesses reopen.

Whether on-site or working remotely, employees look to their managers for performance support, especially if they are underperforming.

An employment advisor recently shared five tips for helping remote underperformers to improve their work.

Start by revisiting your expectations. If you think a lack of experience or of a certain skill is contributing to your employee failing to deliver, consider providing additional, specific training or having the employee partner with a more experienced team member.

Next, learn more about the employee. Ask about the employee's goals and consider modifying your approach to meet their goals. If you can provide them with a work environment that better matches their strengths and goals, their performance will improve.

Learn about your remote employees' situations and environment. It may be that their underperformance is recent and stems from monitoring their young child attending virtual classes at home or from caring for an ill spouse. Modify their work schedule, duties, or your expectations to accommodate changes in their situations and to achieve desired productivity.

Provide specific feedback to employees. The employee may have a sense that their work is not up to par, but not know why. Rather than giving vague directives, like "be a better listener," give employees specific directions such as "avoid looking at your phone during video meetings or interrupting other team members."

Finally, managers are responsible for keeping remote employees in the loop. Schedule regular meetings to discuss their progress, or the employee might think you've written them off for underperforming or if they are performing well, they might think you don't appreciate them. Liz Kislik "5 Tips for Managing an Underperformer—Remotely" (Jul. 22, 2020).


Review your recent conversations with the employee. Did you clearly and completely state what you wanted?

Question yourself before being critical. Are you are simply dissatisfied with the employee’s style or approach rather than the actual work product? If the approach is the issue, try letting go of some control. Allow the employee to use methods that are different from your own if they lead to a quality final product.

Good managers who check on their own performance and communication will find employees appreciate their willingness to undertake that effort and will work with you on ways to improve performance.

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