The Slow Employee

How To Deal With Slow Employees


Learning how to deal with slow employees is an essential skill for all managers. You’ve got one. Every manager has one. The employee who is such a perfectionist, so exacting, so mindful of every detail… that they get nothing done! Or at least they don’t get as much done as they should. So do you just have to deal with their poor output, or is there something you can do about it?

There Is Always Something You Can Do About It!

You’re the boss. Not only can you do something about it, you’re not doing your job if you don’t do something about it. Managing a slow worker is something every manager runs across at some point. Whatever your strategy is, it begins with documenting the problem. Noting the individual’s production numbers each day or week in a notebook is fine – just something concrete to refer to and place in their personnel file for future reference.

A slow employee buried in work.

Meet With Your Employee

Sit down with your slow worker and ask them how they think they are performing their job duties. Often you’ll find they are aware that they are totally overwhelmed and struggling to keep up.

They may think what you are asking of them is impossible. It helps if you have someone to compare them against like the prior holder of their position, or a comparable position held by a co-worker. That will make it easier to demonstrate that what you are asking certainly can be done, but perhaps better methods are being employed by others. More training may be a simple solution.

The other option is if they think they are doing just fine. It doesn’t bother some people to leave a pile of work on their desk each night. They just assume whatever they don’t finish by the end of the day will get done tomorrow.

That kind of thinking comes from poor management. Without clear standards about both quantity and quality of work, most people will do what they think is enough – and not much more.


Make it clear what their goals are and that they are not hitting them. They may be surprised (or, more likely, act surprised) – but they can’t say they didn’t know the goals a second time. Ignorance (real or feigned) is the most common reaction I’ve seen.

Don’t argue that point. Just state firmly that now they know and will be judged accordingly.

Whatever their opinion, make it clear that increased productivity is necessary and that a write-up will follow if they cannot improve their quantity and still maintain adequate quality standards.

Document Whatever Changes Occur

Just as you must document the issue before taking action, you must document further to build evidence – either in their favor – or not. The result is up to them, and you are just documenting their performance. It may lead to a raise if they do well. It may lead to their termination if they do not do well. But documentation is your friend either way. The slow employee evaluation should reflect their performance fairly.


Review Results With Your Employee

If they simply cannot get done what needs to get done in a reasonable time, it is your duty to follow company procedure. Usually a progressive warning system will lead to termination. If they manage to turn everything around, meet with them and tell them how well they’re doing. Remember to discuss the positives that occur rather than just the negatives. The positive meetings are much easier and are only fair to your team.

Dealing with slow employees is more important than just the lost output from that worker. Remember – knowing how to deal with a slow employee can keep your team’s morale from going in the toilet, and keep you looking good.

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