44 Questions to Ask an Underperforming Employee

It’s never easy to have a conversation with an employee about his/her performance. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, and no one likes to hear that they aren’t doing their job as well as they should.

However, these conversations are necessary to address issues directly and help your employees be the best that they can be. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few questions to get the conversation going.

44 Questions you can ask an underperforming employee:

  1. What can I do to help you?
  2. What do you think is the reason for your current performance?
  3. Can you give us specific examples of what’s going on with you?
  4. How do you feel about your current performance level?
  5. What can we do to help you get back on track?
  6. What do you need from me to improve?
  7. What are your goals for the next few weeks/months?
  8. How do you plan to achieve those goals?
  9. Is there anything that’s preventing you from achieving these goals?
  10. Who can you rely on when you need support?
  11. What resources do you need to be successful?
  12. When can you meet with us so we can check in on your progress?
  13. What obstacles have you encountered so far?
  14. How have you overcome those obstacles?
  15. Are there any other issues we should be aware of?
  16. Have you been experiencing any personal or professional problems that might be affecting your work?
  17. Are you having difficulty with certain tasks or projects? If so, why?
  18. Do you feel you have the resources and support you need to succeed in your role? If not, what do you need?
  19. Do you feel like your workload is manageable?
  20. If not, what can I do to lighten your load?
  21. Are there any inconsistencies in our expectations that might contribute to your current difficulties?
  22. What would you say is your greatest strength?
  23. How can we leverage that strength more effectively?
  24. Can you think of any other areas where training or development could help you improve your performance?
  25. Do you feel you have access to the information and resources you need to do your job well?
  26. If not, what do we need to do to change that?
  27. Do you feel like your job is fulfilling and engaging, or do you feel burned out and uninterested?
  28. What motivates you at work?
  29. Is there anything we can do to increase your motivation?
  30. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve our processes or procedures that might help you perform better in your role?
  31. Have you been coming in late or leaving early regularly? If so, why is that?
  32. Have you been taking longer lunch breaks or more breaks than usual? If so, why is that?
  33. Have you been calling in sick more often than usual? If so, why is that?
  34. What can I do to make you feel more confident and successful in your role?
  35. Do you feel like you have a good understanding of our company’s goals and objectives, and how your role fits with those goals?
  36. Do you feel like you have a good understanding of the expectations of your role?
  37. Are there areas where you feel you need more clarity about what’s expected of you?
  38. Do we have regular check-ins scheduled so that we can discuss your progress and give you feedback as needed, if not, would that be helpful to you?
  39. Have you been receiving feedback on your performance from your team members? If so, what did they say?
  40. Is there someone on your team who’s making it difficult for you to do your job effectively? If so, how can we help to resolve that issue?
  41. Do you feel there are enough opportunities in our company for you to grow professionally?
  42. If not, what would make it easier for us to help facilitate that for you?
  43. What challenges have you encountered in trying to meet our expectations for this position?
  44. What are your thoughts on the feedback I’ve given you on your performance?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the indicators of underperformance?

Underperformance can be indicated by a variety of factors, including poor work performance, reduced motivation, and engagement, and decreased productivity.

Some common indicators of underperformance may include a lack of focus or attention on tasks, frequent errors, difficulty meeting deadlines or following instructions, or lack of engagement in team activities. Other signs of underperformance may include declining communication with colleagues or supervisors, low morale or dissatisfaction with work, and increased absenteeism or tardiness.

There are many possible signs of underperformance in the workplace, and it’s important for managers and supervisors to regularly monitor their employees to identify potential problems early. That way, they can provide the support and feedback needed to address issues before they develop into serious problems that may adversely impact both individual employees and the overall success of the organization.

How do you motivate an underperforming employee?

Motivating an underperforming employee can be a challenging task because it requires a combination of strategies and techniques tailored to the needs and preferences of the individual employee. 

Possible approaches include setting clear expectations, providing regular feedback and encouragement, offering additional training or resources, and fostering a motivating work environment that supports collaboration and productivity. 

It comes down to identifying what motivates individual employees and finding ways to leverage that motivation to help them succeed. By being proactive, understanding their needs, and fostering positive relationships with your team members, you can successfully motivate even the most underperforming employees and help them reach their full potential.


Questions are a powerful tool when used correctly. They force the person being asked to stop and think about their answers, which can help uncover the underlying issues causing their poor performance at work.

The next time you’re struggling with how to address an underperforming employee, try asking some (or all) of these questions – you might be surprised at what you learn and how it can help you turn things around.

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