Unproductive Employee Behavior

An effective boss immediately reacts when an employee’s productivity starts to slump.
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Unproductive employee behavior can leave co-workers feeling as though they are aboard a sinking ship. An unhappy employee's misery often spreads through an office like a nasty case of influenza, leaving colleagues equally disgruntled and unmotivated. This ripple effect can negatively affect any business operation if deadlines are missed, projects run over budget and clients’ needs are neglected. An effective leader can navigate through this by understanding the root causes and remedies to negative workplace conduct.


    A supervisor will notice an unproductive employee's behaviors in several different ways. The problem worker could be the team member who constantly becomes hostile and loud in the office. Or, she could maintain her composure but still become defensive and drag an office drama into a commotion that lasts several weeks, with allegations of unfairness or talk of appealing to senior management. The weak performer also could be the most lovable teammate who makes so many errors that her co-workers constantly scrutinize her work and cover for her mistakes. In some cases, the culprit might be caught napping at her desk or accumulating attendance points because she arrives late most mornings.

Root Causes

    A supervisor's first step in dealing with an unproductive employee is to delve into the reasons behind her unfavorable conduct. This starts with a candid conversation behind closed doors. The staff member's personal life might be tense because of a family illness, financial struggles or a difficult teenage child. Her stress meter could be going off the charts because another supervisor yells at her or because her workload is overwhelming. She may need some extra training on a new system or process. In some cases, an under-performing worker may not be qualified to do her job.


    Open communication between a problem employee and her boss is imperative. If a struggling employee's personal problems are contributing to her low productivity, a supervisor typically steers her toward the company's employee assistance program. In some cases, a low-performing worker might be uncertain about what’s expected of her on the job. This confusion over her role opens the door for the supervisor to review her job description and establish specific goals to boost her overall performance. Sometimes, termination is the final outcome when an employee keeps turning in a dismal performance and fails to respond to supervisory counseling.

Preventive Measures

    A successful leader doesn't wait until a staff member's productivity slumps to intervene. Instead, an effective boss continuously brings out the best in her employees. She uses the performance review process to help each worker build realistic and obtainable goals. She also holds ongoing conversations with each team member so they can update her in their progress and so that she can offer constructive feedback and coaching. An efficient manager implements reward systems to recognize and sustain her team's success stories.

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