How to give actional feedback to underperforming employees?

feedback to underperforming employees

Dealing with underperforming employees can be difficult, especially for small organizations or people unfamiliar with such fragile situations. However, it is critical that issues related to the employees are resolved swiftly to avoid future problems. Employers can help with motivation and resolution of difficulties by providing quality feedback to employees who are performing well and those who are underperforming. Giving feedback is essential for informing your staff about their performance and what is expected of them, and it is part of helping your team’s learning and development. It is critical that this feedback occurs frequently and continuously rather than only during performance assessments.

So, how should you approach constructive feedback that addresses flaws or limitations that employees need to improve on? The primary objective of providing feedback to employees isn’t usually to blame them, as team leaders often do. Giving feedback to employees, particularly those underperforming, can be difficult. Giving employees feedback ensures that problems be identified and addressed before they do significant damage to the firm. Delivering well-crafted feedback to your underperforming employees assists these individuals in changing the undesirable behaviors that prevent them from giving their all at work while maintaining a positive connection with the person providing the feedback.

feedback to underperforming employees

Below are some of the most effective actionable ways to give feedback to your underperforming employees:

1. Be objective but also empathetic

Maintain objectivity when providing feedback. Allow your emotions to cloud your judgment, so you begin to mince words or withhold the truth from your employees. Communicate clearly and leave them with the impression that you are assisting him or them in improving. Belittling others is not a good strategy to help them become better or to get them started on the path to improvement. People are driven by compliments and inspired when they are shown affection and appreciation.

Thus, delivering the feedback to them in a way that makes them feel valued and that their contributions are recognized and appreciated but that they need to do more is critical for the feedback to yield its actual benefits. 

2. Provide real-time feedback regularly

Give feedback as soon as possible. Don’t provide valuable employee performance feedback until the next company’s general appraisal sessions. Giving immediate feedback allows people to easily identify and connect with the subjects of the feedback being given because the activities detailed in the feedback are still fresh in their memories. Discuss your team members’ issues and weaknesses, and guide or assist them in customizing work blueprints by dividing their tasks and milestones into a series of readily consumable pieces that they can take on one by one. 

For example, if someone is bad at meeting deadlines, you can help them establish or guide them on how to get their work done within the deadline. 

3. Focus on the problem and be specific

Telling an employee what they could do better includes explaining why. For example, opening a conversation with ‘You need to be getting to work sooner’ presume the employee understands the importance of timeliness. Instead, be specific about the issue at hand – in this case, clients are being kept waiting – and organize your criticism around it.

The employee may not have all the information or perspective for a problem. So, explain how the problem affects you and the rest of the company if necessary. The more specific your input is, the more actionable it will become.

4. Give credit where it’s due 

Giving your employees positive feedback is also important, and recognizing positives among negatives will help convince them that you haven’t gone over the edge. ‘I think you did a terrific effort with this account – revenues are up 13% since last quarter,’ for example. However, a few consumers have informed us that response times have increased.’ This communicates to the individual that you are not criticizing their entire performance but rather that some elements of their job require attention. Just be careful not to exaggerate the positives, as this might make you appear insincere.

You ensure that the feedback motivates them to work for more positive recognition by providing them with positive points. This makes your workforce more motivated and productive, driving the organization toward success. 

5. Opt for guidance and not disapproval 

Always remember the entire idea of feedback is based on the idea of guidance and not disapproval. The same should be reflected throughout the duration of the talk between you and your employees. Here’s where many leaders go wrong: rather than diving right into corrective comments, consider listening first. Ask pertinent questions, such as why they believe a specific problem is occurring, and then allow them to clearly describe the scenario. The objective of addressing your underperforming employees is not to review their shortcomings but to discover the best method to fix the problem in front.

When you choose guidance over criticism, you open up their imagination and demonstrate that you believe in their ability to progress and improve based on their feedback. 

If you’re still in a dilemma about establishing a culture of feedback in your organization, speak to the experts today! 


  • Which are the best tools to give your employees feedback?

Platforms such as OKR software, performance management tool, and agile collaboration tool are the most effective tools through which feedback can be both given and requested. 

  • Do employees actually benefit from feedback?

Feedback helps your employees have greater confidence in their abilities and be much more motivated to perform better. Making them aware of their abilities and strengths gives them a sense of value in the company, which is essential for employee success.

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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