How to Manage an Employee Who’s Struggling to Perform Remotely

By: Ron Carucci

With many unfamiliar variables introduced by Covid-19, getting to the bottom of sudden poor performance is more complicated than it used to be — especially when you’re dealing with an employee who was successful back in the office. If your employee has just recently started to underperform, begin by identifying new variables that could be interfering with their work. Have there been recent organizational shifts? Difficulties in their personal life? Sometimes you may not know until you have the conversation, but it’s important to consider all the factors before a confrontation.

Have the conversation on a video call so you can read each other’s expressions, and start it by asking about their well-being. Then, clarify that your goal is to help them resolve the problem at hand. Use probing questions like, “Why do you feel this is happening?” and listen carefully to how they describe the situation. Once you’ve identified what the issue is, ask, “What would you change if you could?” to open the person’s imagination and signal that you trust their ability to improve. Resist telling them what to do. You want to engage the underperformer in problem solving and let them know you are OK with missteps as long they are corrected and learned from.

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