The vast majority of us do NOT enjoy being the bad guy.

Most of us don’t enjoy pointing out other people’s mistakes, but sometimes we don’t have any choice but to explain to someone that their work isn’t up to the necessary standards.

You’ve made allowances for things always being 100% perfect but there’s always a limit to how many times you can give someone the benefit of the doubt before you need to be direct with them.

If you’re stuck in a situation where it’s essential to tell a team member that their work isn’t good enough, these are some kind, polite and honest ways of saying it.

To give managers a helping hand with managing employee poor performance we’ve put together 5 Message Template Examples to Tell Your Team Member Their Work Is Not up to Standard.

Copy, paste, and amend to suit your individual circumstances just remember to be true to your word and be stern, but not harsh.

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Email Template 1 | When Your Team Member Is New to the Role or Company


Dear [Insert Name],
It has been two months since you joined our team and I hope you are adjusting well to the environment and getting the hang of things. Your training period ended a month ago and after that, you were expected to carry on with your duties as per the job description. As you know, the HR department of our company reviews employee records every two months and gives them feedback accordingly.
I just received your progress reports and unfortunately, there are some areas where improvement needs to be made. I personally checked all through your recent work and I counted a number of mistakes in the reports that you have submitted over the course of this past month.
I’ve considered how to proceed on this, and I’ve decided that we should train you for another two weeks before giving you the status of a permanent employee. This should provide an opportunity for you to look at the areas of your performance that are not quite up to our standards, and to address them. We have seen the hard work and effort that you’ve put in, and we want to support you in your development as a valuable team member.
I have highlighted some core points where you will need to make improvements and I will discuss them with you as soon as possible. As you know, our company has an excellent reputation and we really want all our team members to reach the standards that we have established. Your extended training period will start from tomorrow and I hope you will work hard to achieve the required improvement.
Kind Regards,
[Your Name]

This template is firm but fair and does not leave the employee under any illusion about how they have to work hard to improve or face the consequences.

If you want to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the "Managing Employee Performance Problems" video course from LinkedIn Learning.
Click here for full access to "Managing Employee Performance Problems" On LinkedIn Learning
Here you'll get practical advice on how to have difficult conversations with your employess. You'll learn the neccessary communication skills and techniques to improve your professional relationships and effectively manage poor performance at your convenience.

Email Template 2 | When Your Team Member Hasn’t Been Paying Attention


Dear [Insert Name],
I’m sending this email because I want to discuss a few things regarding your attitude towards work and prioritising other things over your job. For the past week, I have noticed that you haven’t been paying attention to office matters and that you have been seen brooding over your desk for hours. As a result, your productivity has decreased and it has started to show. I wanted to talk to you about this personally because I feel if there is anything I can do to help, I would want to know.
All of us have a number of other things going on in our lives, but when it comes to work, we leave those things behind or at home. You have been a commendable employee and a true asset to our team, but lately I have noticed you dosing off at meetings and staring into the computer screen for long periods of time. It seems like you have just stopped focusing.
If there is anything you want to talk about, or anything personal going on, which is affecting your focus, I’m happy to talk things through with you. We are part of a team and I really want to help you out. If you want a couple of days off or any other support from the company, please let me know and I promise to see what I can arrange. If you need to reach out, we are here for you.
Kind regards,
[Insert Your Name]

Sometimes, poor performance is caused by something out of the person’s control, and it’s not just a matter of being lazy. If you suspect that a colleague has personal problems, this email template should help you to reach out to them.

If you're looking to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the following video course from LinkedIn Learning.
Click here for full access to "Working with Difficult People" On LinkedIn Learning
In this course, Chris Croft shares methods for recognizing the characteristics of some of the most common types of difficult people, and gives you strategies for dealing with these individuals more effectively. Chris provides practical techniques for dealing with a variety of different behaviors, including negativity, aggression, childishness, and selfishness. Plus, he explains how to overcome your own negative thinking, and get the best from a difficult boss.

Email Template 3 | When Your Team Member Isn’t Taking their Job Seriously


Dear [Insert Name],
You’ve been a part of our team for a long time and I think by now, you know how things run here. We’re a team and we all need to give our best to meet deadlines and to push performance higher. As your team leader and friend, I have noticed that you haven’t been very serious about work recently.
I see you have missed the last two meetings and you have been coming to work late for a week. Last week, a deadline was missed because you were unable to deliver the work on time, and I have also noticed you taking a 90-minute lunch break while the company only allows an hour. This attitude has affected our team’s progress, and your work is also not up to standard.
If there is something that you would like to talk about or bring to our notice, please feel free to come in my office at any time tomorrow to discuss it. The next couple of months are going to be very crucial for our team because we have big projects coming up and I need my team to be in the best of spirits. I hope you understand this and are able to settle whatever is troubling you.
Best regards,
[Insert Your Name]

Again, it’s important to provide a clear outline of the specific performance issues that are causing concern, so that the employee knows exactly what needs to change. Avoid being confrontational or accusatory, and always assume that there is a genuine reason behind any sudden behavior change.

If you want to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the "Giving and Receiving Feedback" video course from LinkedIn Learning.
Click here for full access to "Giving and Receiving Feedback" On LinkedIn Learning
Giving—and receiving—feedback is a skill that's relevant to every member of an organization. Author Gemma Leigh Roberts shows how to give effective feedback, ask for feedback, and use the responses you receive as a tool to improve personal performance. These tips will help lead you into a cycle of continuous development, and a growth mindset that can help propel your career and your relationships forward.

Email Template 4 | When Your Team Member Has Been Mixing Personal Life With Work


Dear [Insert Name],
I’m emailing you today because I have noticed some unusual activity in the office lately and I really need to talk to you about it. For the last two weeks, we have noticed that you have been meeting lawyers in the office or going on much longer lunch breaks.
Your wife comes to the office very often and you both spend a lot of time together while you’re at work. It has been brought to my notice that you are having personal issues and that you might be considering a divorce. At this very hard time, I hope that you know that you can confide in me.
The reason for this email is because I have been noticed your recent lack of motivation to do anything. Because you are so stressed out with your personal life, it is really showing in your work. For the past two weeks, our team has really slowed down, because you haven’t been concentrating, and it has really shown on the graphs. The very little work that you do deliver is usually not on time and isn’t up to the required standard.
I understand this is a very tough time for you, and seeing your family split up is one of the hardest things anyone can go through. If you want, we can arrange a meeting for you with our in-house counselor to help you get through this.
Please be assured that I want the best for you and I hope we can support you so that you can get back to being a productive member of the team as soon as possible.
Kind regards,
[Insert Your Name]

Difficult personal circumstances can have a big impact on a person’s ability to do their job effectively. By highlighting that you already know why the person isn’t performing well, you make it easier for them to come to you to discuss a way forward.

If you've decided you're ready to take your professional soft skills to the next level and get the dream career you've always wanted, we think you'll love the "Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills" video course from LinkedIn Learning. 

With this course of over 10 hours of high-quality video content you can learn to set yourself apart from the pack. You'll get the essential soft skills that will enable you interact effectively with others- a skill that employers value most and will stand the test of time. You'll learn communication fundamentals and being a team player whilst advancing your critical thinking skills.

You'll also create a solid process for achieving your goals and bouncing back from challenging situations, communicate effectively for others and become a problem solver. 

Click here to get to "Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills" video course from LinkedIn Learning. It's a no-brainer.

Email Template 5 | When Your Team Member Needs Reaffirming About their Job Security


Dear [Insert Name],
You have been a part of our team for a while now and we appreciate your service and the hard work you have put in to make this company grow. Lately, it has come to my notice that the work you are delivering is not up to your usual high standards, and I want to ask you why this is happening.
As you know, we hired two new staff members last month, in order to meet our deadlines and boost productivity. However, since these new members of staff arrived, we’ve seen a different approach from you to your work, which is having a negative impact on the team as a whole.
It’s been brought to my attention that the reason for your change of attitude is that you may be feeling insecure about your own position, now that we have expanded the team, so I feel I should reassure you. We have no intention of replacing anyone on the team, and the new recruits were hired to expand the team’s capabilities, not to push anyone off the team.
Going forward, I hope that you can welcome our new colleagues and that you can all work together for the good of the team, and for the good of the company. I hope this message has reassured you about your own role, but if you want to discuss It in more detail, please schedule a meeting with me.
Best wishes,
[Insert Your Name]

This final template should point out to an awkward employee that their behavior has been noticed and that you can see why they might have been behaving poorly. It offers a clear opportunity to change the negative behavior and to go back to the previous good character and work ethic.

At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.  

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out more about NTRW and our recommended tools, you can do that here.

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!


Article by Never the Right Word

Scripts & Templates for Life’s Uncomfortable Conversations. Learn more about NTRW here. NTRW is supported by adverts and affiliate marketing links. For more info, please see our Earnings Disclosure.

This site does not constitute legal, mental, or medical health advice, please consult a competent licensed professional. If you have questions please Contact Us.

Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation. Learn more about me here.

In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.

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