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Managing Underperforming Educators

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Managing Underperforming Educators

When an Educator is not performing their tasks or responsibilities at best practice, these issues need to be addressed for the Educator to understand where they need to improve. 

The following article is a guide for Lead Educators/Directors and those in charge of Educators within a setting, to understand underperformance, common performance issues, how to solve them and more. 

Underperformance needs to dealt with efficiently by the Lead Educator/Director as it can cause a negative effect on the entire service and become unhealthy and difficult to resolve in the future. 

What is Underperformance? 

  • Failure to perform duties, tasks and responsibilities of the position
  • Unsatisfactory work performance to the standard required
  • Unacceptable behaviour in the workplace
  • Disruptive or place manage behaviour that impacts the team
  • Non-compliance with service policies, procedures, National Regulations. 

Reasons For Underperformance

Educators may perform poorly due to the following reasons:

  • interpersonal differences
  • cultural misunderstandings
  • miscommunication
  • workplace bullying 
  • personal issues (mental health-related, drug/alcohol abuse, physical stress, family stress)
  • low morale
  • lack of motivation
  • the poor work environment 
  • no feedback on work performance 
  • the educator doesn't have the knowledge or skills to do the job as expected
  • Service Policies and Procedures are unclear

Some Educators may be unaware that they are not performing well or as expected of them.

During the time of their underperformance, there may be personal issues or hardships that the Educator may be facing outside of the service that is affecting their work or workplace bullying that has been overlooked. Educators should be given an opportunity to discuss in confidentiality the reasons for their poor performance in a safe environment. It's important that Lead Educators/ Directors manage underperformance in an appropriate and sensitive manner in order for a positive outcome and to move forward to create a high-quality environment. 

Common Performance Issues

Here is a summary of issues that you may face by Educators and how to manage and improve performance: 


The Educator does not undertake work as required, showing signs of apathy and laziness.
The Educator does not appear to understand job requirements or directions.

Possible Causes:

  • Job content and design
  • Inappropriate job fit
  • Personal or external issues.

What to do:

  • Begin with informal performance discussion
  • Be clear about the performance requirements and expected contribution of the role to the work of the business.
  • Focus on interest in work tasks, and how they might be improved.
  • Explore options for opportunities in other areas of the service, if possible.
  • Refer to counselling service if personal circumstances are impacting performance.


The Educator will not follow directions or perform tasks as required.

Possible causes:

  • Failure to understand what is required
  • Inability to perform tasks
  • Personal issues.

What to do:

  • Begin performance improvement process starting with informal discussions around what is required in the position.
  • Look at possible options for training and development if a skill deficit is identified.


The Educator fails to acknowledge they are underperforming.

Possible causes:

  • Performance issues have not been adequately explained
  • The process has not been adequately applied.
  • The employee does not accept management assessments.

What to do:

  • Re-establish expected outcomes
  • Use evidence of how performance has failed to meet expected standards
  • Explain the impact of this on the success of the service.


The Educator does not complete work tasks to the required standards, policies and procedures

Possible causes:

Lacks the required skills and capabilities.

What to do:

  • Identify training and development opportunities as a part of the performance improvement plan.
  • Review recruitment practices to ensure appropriate selection decisions are being made.


The Educator is cynical about the work environment and tasks, bringing negative opinions to the work environment.

Possible causes:

  • Has become disillusioned with the work environment
  • Fails to understand the value of work being undertaken.

What to do:

  • Establish team culture based on respect and support.
  • Re-establish role of the position, and the value of outcomes delivered by the organisation.
  • If possible, explore opportunities for career transition and movement.


The Educator is regularly absent without cause.

Possible causes:

  • Job content and design
  • Inappropriate job fit
  • Management style
  • Personal or workplace issues.

What to do:

  • Identify cause behind absenteeism
  • Explore possible strategies for job redesign, job fit, changes to working arrangements, management of health issues.

How To Manage UnderPerfomance Issues

A clear procedure needs to be in place to manage underperformance issues.  A constant and straightforward approach, address problems and offers effective solutions. it is also accepted and valued by the team within the service. 

Step 1 - Identify The Problem 

Specifically, identify the problem - give clear examples. 

Step 2 - Assess and analyse the problem 

Identify the issue and determine how serious the issue is, how long the issue has existed etc. 

Step 3 - Arrange A Meeting Discuss The Issue With the Educator Involved 

Have an open and non-intimidating conversation on:

  • what the issue is
  • why is it an issue
  • how the issue impacts the workplace
  • why you have concerns 

The Educator should have an opportunity to have their point of view heard and explain the reasons for their underperformance. The Lead Educator/Director should take these comments into consideration and openly discuss these concerns in a professional and ethical matter. 

Step 4 - Come Up With A Solution

The Educator and Lead Educator/Director should collaborate and come up with a solution to overcome these issues. Educators who are encouraged to contribute to the solution are more likely to accept it and act upon it. 

To come up with a solution together you should: 

  • focus on the positives
  • offer support (training, mentoring, flexible work practices etc)of. 
  • explore ideas
  • use open questions 

Step 5 - Monitor Performance

Once the issues have been resolved and a plan of action has been devised, it's important that the Lead Educator/Director monitor the Educator's performance and provide feedback and encouragement where necessary. Both positive and negative feedback should be given and you should continue to work with the Educator to ensure that their performance improves and the Educator carries out their duties as required. 

When an Educator is underperforming it's important that they are given a chance to improve before further action is taken. It is the responsibility of the Lead Educator/Director to ensure that Educators understand what is expected of them and when issues do arise that you explain your concerns with examples. Educators should be given an opportunity to respond to issues of concern before you consider action and work together to resolve all concerns. All Educators within the service should regularly be provided with feedback on their performance so improvements can be made accordingly within the team environment. 

Managing Underperformance, Best Practices Guide, FairWork Australia, Reference No. 2385

Created On December 6, 2017 Last modified on Friday, October 9, 2020
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