How to Motivate Underperforming Employees

 In Human Resources

Every manager and business owner has the dream of managing an operation that runs at maximum efficiency.

The well-oiled machine is the dream of so many. It is a possible reality, but often businesses fall short of the ideal.

When employees fall off a bit and the business does not meet its optimum potential, management may need to reassess its approach.

In this post, we will discuss 4 ways how to motivate underperforming employees and create a workplace that functions to its highest potential.

External Problems

If your company is providing the resources and proper working environment for your employees to excel, then there may be issues that are bothering them outside of the office.

One approach may be to talk with them privately and discover what exactly is going on. This can be ad hoc, or during a routine performance interview. They may be going through a tough break-up or a divorce and need counseling or extra time to do things to help them overcome such obstacles. Address the concern, lend an open ear, and provide fair feedback and a structured path to resolving the matter.

An employee assistance program can also be helpful in these instances. When you reach out to them, you demonstrate empathy, build trust, and provide the support needed for your employees to get back on their feet.

Raise the Bar

When you notice employees underperforming, perhaps it is time to enhance your personal work habits.

Set a high bar by virtue of your example and they will start to catch on. If you start bringing in more sales, or otherwise turning out a higher quality of work, you can expect employees to follow suit. When employees feel this sort of friendly competition, they will strive to do better and will be motivated in a new way.

Intrinsic Rewards > External Rewards

Rather than focusing on external rewards, try to encourage the intrinsic goods of a job well done.

Find ways to demonstrate the worth and value of their work in ways that go beyond a paycheck. Some companies try motivating employees with free lunches or a pool table in the break room.

You can perhaps make fun, competitive games for workers to invest themselves in. You can also show them how their work has a positive impact on their community. When employees find that their own sense of satisfaction and well-being is enhanced, their motivation for work increases.


Your underperforming employees may be feeling stifled and unable to try out new ideas. Give them the autonomy and agency to try out new ways of doing things. After all, they are the ones “in the trenches” and so, they may find that some new approach to workflow or some other facet of the work environment needs improvement.

When they are able to experiment with their work, they will be better motivated for it, and they may also innovate your business in ways you didn’t think were possible.


If you are seeking professional guidance on creating work expectations, contact Rush Recruiting & HR. We are a multi-faceted company that helps businesses in every stage of the human resources process, from onboarding to employee handbooks to performance reviews. Discover how our services can help you achieve your company’s goals!

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