How to Scare an Employee Straight


Steve the Slacker. Chatty Cathy. Missed the Memo Mark.

The names may be silly, but the problems that their poor job performance cause are no joke. When an employee fails to pull their weight, their attitudes and actions (or lack of action) cause frightening problems in your company:

  • Creating additional work for other employees.
  • Causing process bottlenecks and missed deadlines.
  • Frustrating customers and clients.
  • Taking up too much of management’s time.
  • Diminishing morale, undermining your culture and even driving good employees out the door.


When an employee repeatedly misses deadlines, makes excuses or procrastinates, subtle hints and gentle reminders aren’t likely to improve their performance. Sometimes, you have to grab a metaphorical bullhorn and…

…scare that employee straight!

Here’s how to address performance issues early and directly – and turn a slacker into a superstar:

  • Limit excuses. If the employee blames external factors or coworkers for their poor performance, eliminate the reasons they point fingers:
    • Make sure they have the resources, training, tools, time and support they need to do their jobs.
    • Use their job description, as well as departmental and organizational goals, as guidelines to set clear goals and performance expectations.
  • Get real. Is your underperformer living in a fantasy world? If so, they may need some very direct feedback to snap them out of it. To prevent the employee from becoming defensive or taking negative feedback personally, focus on the facts. Give clear examples of times when the employee failed to meet performance expectations. Then, explain how these behaviors affect their future at your company – including opportunities for promotion, recognition, raises, bonuses and job security.
  • Explain what’s at stake. Clarify the ripple effect the individual’s poor performance has – on their coworkers, your customers/clients and your company’s bottom line. When an employee understands the true impact they make, it’s often enough to change their behavior for the better.
  • Dangle a carrot. Sometimes, employees underperform because they’re bored at work or simply lack sufficient challenge. If you think that might be the case, discuss the potential for additional responsibilities once they improve their job performance.

Need to replace a slacker?

Trust PrideStaff with your staffing and hiring needs. Our On Target process eliminates chance and inconsistency, delivering better quality candidates – individuals who exceed your performance expectations and contribute from day one.

Whether your needs are entry-level or management, On Target can make your hiring more successful.  Contact your local PrideStaff office today to learn more.