16 questions to ask an underperforming employee

questions to ask an underperforming employee: Managing underperforming employees can be a challenging yet essential aspect of leadership. Instead of simply reprimanding or criticizing, a more constructive approach is to engage in open and supportive dialogue. Asking the right questions can help identify the root causes of underperformance and create a plan for improvement. In this blog post, we’ll explore 16 crucial questions that can guide your conversation with an underperforming employee, ultimately leading to their growth and success within the organization.

16 questions to ask an underperforming employee

  1. Can you tell me how you perceive your current performance and the challenges you face?
  • Significance: Opening with this question allows the employee to express their view of their performance and the obstacles they encounter, laying the foundation for a constructive conversation.
  1. What goals or objectives were set for your role, and how do you believe you’re progressing toward them?
  • Significance: Understanding the employee’s perception of their goals and progress helps identify potential misalignments and expectations.
  1. Are there any external factors or personal challenges affecting your work that you’d like to discuss?
  • Significance: This question acknowledges that personal challenges can impact work performance and creates an opportunity for empathy and support.
  1. Can you share specific instances where you feel your performance fell short of expectations?
  • Significance: Requesting concrete examples of underperformance allows for a more detailed assessment and targeted improvement.
  1. What resources or support do you believe would help you perform better in your role?
  • Significance: Identifying resource gaps or areas where additional support is needed can lead to actionable solutions.
  1. Have you received adequate training or guidance for your tasks and responsibilities?
  • Significance: This question assesses whether the employee has the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their job effectively.
  1. Are there aspects of your job that you find particularly challenging or demotivating?
  • Significance: Identifying specific challenges and demotivating factors provides insight into areas that require attention and improvement.
  1. How do you typically prioritize your tasks and manage your workload?
  • Significance: Understanding the employee’s time management and task prioritization can lead to better strategies for productivity.
  1. Can you share your perspective on how your role contributes to the team’s and the organization’s goals?
  • Significance: This question helps the employee connect their role to broader objectives, fostering a sense of purpose.
  1. Are there any changes in your role or responsibilities that you believe would help you perform better? 

Significance: Encouraging the employee to propose changes empowers them to take an active role in their development.

  1. How do you handle feedback, and are there specific ways you prefer to receive it? 

 Significance: Understanding the employee’s feedback preferences allows for more effective communication and coaching.

  1. Can you share any professional development goals or areas you’d like to improve upon? 

Significance: This question promotes a growth mindset and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the employee’s development.

  1. How can I, as your manager, better support you in your efforts to improve your performance? 

Significance: This question shows leadership’s willingness to provide the necessary support and resources for improvement.

  1. Are there examples of colleagues or mentors whose performance you admire or would like to emulate? 

Significance: Encouraging the employee to identify role models can inspire them to set higher standards for themselves.

  1. What steps do you believe are necessary to overcome your current performance challenges? 

 Significance: Requesting the employee’s input on improvement strategies empowers them to take ownership of their development.

  1. How can we measure your progress and success in addressing your performance issues? 

 Significance: Establishing clear metrics and benchmarks for improvement ensures that progress can be tracked effectively.


Engaging in a thoughtful conversation with an underperforming employee using these 16 questions can lead to a more collaborative and supportive approach to addressing performance issues. It allows the employee to voice their concerns, contribute to the solution, and feel valued as part of the team. By actively addressing the root causes of underperformance and working together on a plan for improvement, both the employee and the organization can benefit from enhanced productivity and a more positive work environment.

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