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5 causes of poor employee performance

Last updated: June 2016


Dealing with poor employee performance is perhaps the least favorite part of a manager’s job. Poor performance is detrimental to both employees and organisations. Therefore, it is important to diagnose the root causes of poor performance so that corrective steps can be taken.

Five causes of poor employee performance

There are many reasons which may impact on employee performance. However, this article will address five only. The five causes are as follows:

Lack of job control

Employees’ lack of control over their tasks may affect the quality of work. Many people around the world feel less secure and highly pressured with pay cuts and reduced control over their jobs. This not only causes poor performance but also leads to actions such as demonstration and industrial strikes.

High work pressure

Excessive pressure from work (both physical and psychological) may affect the quality and productivity of the employees. A lot of work is now-a-days target-driven. Meeting targets, facing global business challenges, stiff competition and so on put a lot of pressure on employees. Fear of failing to meet work demands may sometimes be very harmful for employees.


Illness is another cause of poor employee performance. According to Schultz and Edington (2007), different health conditions such as impaired mental health, allergies, and arthritis are associated with productivity loss at work.

Lack of motivation

Lack of motivation may directly impact on the abilities and performance of the employees. Why do employees lose motivation resulting in decrease in productivity? The reasons are many. Poor working conditions, poor pay, managerial style, and organisational cultures are some of the reasons of employee demotivation.


Stress is one of the main causes of many problems at work across the world. There are many causes of stress e.g. poor communication between management and employees, too much workload, lack of balance between work and home life, and work place bullying. Stress may not only cause poor employee performance, but also lead to a number of illnesses.

In a nutshell, poor employee performance may be the results of many factors. However, the five causes discussed above are widely considered the main ones. Understanding these causes would help managers devise appropriate strategies to deal with performance problem.

Further reading/references

Schultz, A. & Edington, D., (2007) Employee Health and Presenteeism: A Systematic Review, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.