How to Deal With an Unproductive Employee

Unproductive Employee

Unproductive employees, those who consistently fall short of their potential or fail to meet performance expectations, can have far-reaching implications for a company. From missed deadlines and decreased team morale to potential financial setbacks, their impact can hinder overall progress and hinder organizational goals. Identifying the root causes of unproductivity and exploring effective strategies to support these individuals is a crucial endeavor that requires empathy, communication, and a willingness to drive positive change.

Unfortunately, the effects of unproductive employee behavior can be damaging – and not only to the involved individual but also to the company they work for. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report reveals that disengaged employees cost their organizations 34% of their salary every year. That means that if a worker earns $34,000 annually and is unproductive, they are costing their company $11,560 each year! In this article, we’ll focus on providing insights and strategies to spot and effectively deal with unproductive employees.

How Can You Spot Unproductive Employees in Your Team?

Here are the signs that tell you that a worker is unproductive:

They Complain All the Time

If even the smallest problem can send them through the roof, then you’re looking at a red flag. When an employee complains, it’s an indication that they are not willing to change or work. Aside from affecting the work environment, complaining can be a waste of time. If there is an issue, a productive employee won’t dwell on it too much. Instead, they will start working to find a solution.

“Learn how to address unproductive employees with our actionable guide. With Traqq’s insights, discover effective ways to motivate and support struggling employees to improve their performance and contribute positively to the team.”

They Make Excuses

Aside from complaining, they also make unreasonable excuses. It’s understandable if an employee cannot complete a task because other things take priority. However, if you notice that they cannot justify missing deadlines, then there’s something wrong with them. Start observing them and see if they always give excuses. An excuse or two from time to time is acceptable. However, remember that things can go out of hand quickly if you don’t address the root cause of the problem.

They Keep Putting Off Work 

It’s only natural for employees to get distracted from time to time. However, it becomes a big problem if an individual procrastinates most of the time and does not get anything done. When one person in the team is not doing their job, everyone’s productivity suffers. Of course, this can also affect the profits of the entire company. You may think that there is not enough manpower to complete all the tasks. So, you end up hiring temp workers, adding up to your expenses. So, it’s crucial to identify the biggest procrastinators in your team.

They Do Not Have Autonomy

Does the employee run everything by you, the manager? There can be two reasons behind this. It’s possible that they’re hoping that their manager will do the work or assign it to someone else. The other reason could be that the worker is not confident about doing the task independently. Regardless of the reason, the employee is still unproductive. Being efficient at a job means the person can face the problems at hand and be creative enough to solve them independently. It’s reasonable to seek help from time to time. However, running everything by the manager won’t help an individual become efficient and productive at work.

They Are Not Passionate or Motivated

Not Passionate or Motivated

After several years, an employee can become a little too comfortable in their role. They may feel that even with little effort, they still have their job security. In other cases, employees may not find any motivation to give their best because their tasks do not challenge them anymore.

They Only Care About Recognition

An unproductive employee will only do their work effectively if they know they are going to get credit for it. Otherwise, they may give half-baked results. On the other hand, a truly productive employee will always find ways to be innovative and creative in their role. They don’t simply do what they’re told. They think outside the box and efficiently accomplish their tasks.

They Don’t Aspire to Become Better

When employees become complacent in their roles, they don’t aspire to grow. They may not be making excuses, but they are just doing what they’re told. Now, if they do not invest in becoming better, for them, work becomes routinary. A productive employee always takes pride in expanding or mastering their skills. When a person is passionate about improvement, it shows their independence.

How to Deal with Unproductive Employees

Every business owner and manager wants to know how they should deal with workers who are not giving their best. You may believe that it’s enough to warn an employee that if they don’t pull their weight, they may lose their job. However, this can be demotivating for the person. Instead of adding fuel to their professional fire, they may become even more disengaged. In some cases, discipline is the answer, but before you come to that point, try these methods:

Tell Your Employees What You Expect from Them

Most of the time, people are unproductive because they aren’t aware of what their managers expect from them. You can resolve this by providing a detailed job description to every employee. Every several months or so, the company needs to evaluate the performance of each worker. Now, part of the monitoring process is ensuring that each job description aligns with appropriate company goals. As a manager, you’re responsible for monitoring and fine-tuning an individual’s progress. 

Provide Appropriate Tools and Training

Your employees may feel that they do not have the ability to perform their job effectively. In this case, you need to equip them with the right knowledge and tools. If you find that there are better tools on the market, consider upgrading to help your employees become efficient. It’s also worth noting that proper training will contribute to their productivity. In some cases, they cannot do their job well because they lack the appropriate skills. 

Recognize Exceptional Efforts

Sometimes, people do not give their best because they think their efforts do not matter. They may feel out of place because to them, their output seems to have no direct impact on the production process. So, it’s important that you help them understand that their efforts are valuable. You can do this by giving rewards to employees who perform exceptionally. Praise, recognition, and gratification will motivate and inspire people – even if they now find it hard to remain productive.

Get Close to Your Employees but Maintain Boundaries

Get Close to Your Employees

You need to know if there are roadblocks that hinder your workers from being productive. Now, you can only discover these issues if you get close to and involved enough with your employees. You must let them feel that they can talk to you and discuss any problems they encounter at work. However, don’t forget to set boundaries. If you get too friendly with them, they may think that your authority is a vague concept. Because they’re in your good books, they may take liberties.

Monitor Their Productivity

It can be difficult to instill discipline at work without creating a hostile environment. So, if you want to ensure that your employees stay productive without micromanaging them, you should use an online monitoring tool like Traqq. Once your employees have installed this app, all they need to do is click Start and the program will start logging hours automatically. It will take random screenshots of the user’s desktop and upload the images to encrypted cloud storage. You will see the screenshots on the dashboard, but they are blurred to an extent that prevents sensitive details from becoming legible.

On the dashboard, you’ll also see your employee’s activity levels. High activity will appear as green, normal as yellow, and low as red. This way, you’ll know if your worker is productive or just cyberslacking. The best part about Traqq is that it’s free. You can download it and access all its features without paying for monthly subscriptions.


You need to exhaust all methods to help an employee become productive. However, if you’ve tried everything and they still underperform, then consider discussing the issue with the HR department. Sometimes, you need to fire a person if they are negatively affecting the morale in the workplace.

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