Marconi: Why Employees Underperform

Sept. 27, 2023
Four reasons why you may not be getting the best out of your team and what to do about it.

When auto repair shop owners get together, it’s common to hear them discuss their employees. But how often do you hear shop owners talking about their best employees? Not very often, right? Shop owners are usually obsessed with underperforming employees. Let’s explore the reasons why.  


Many shop owners and managers assume that potential, or the desire to excel, will eventually turn into positive outcomes. Unfortunately, having potential or desire doesn’t always lead to high performance. It’s important to note that no matter what someone’s potential is, they may only attain a certain level of performance, which is largely based on their natural talent. 


Motivation is another factor we need to consider. As a business coach, clients often tell me their employees are money motivated. I challenge this thinking. The technician who is planning to get married, buy a house and have kids knows their future involves money—and a lot of it. But what is the true motive behind the money? Sit down with your employees. Find out why they come to work each day. What really motivates them?  

Preferential Treatment 

Another reason people may shut down is when they perceive certain employees are held to a different standard. For example, your shop’s starting time is 8:00 a.m., but every day the same two employees arrive late. If you allow some employees to set their own rules, you are sure to have morale problems. Your best employees will eventually question your leadership if you don’t hold everyone accountable to the same standards. 

Personal Challenges 

Have you ever had a star employee who has performed at high levels, but suddenly seemed indifferent to his job and his coworkers? This employee may be going through personal or health issues. Maybe she is burned out between obligations at work and home. It’s best not to assume anything. Again, sit down with this person. Find out what’s going on. Think about this: are you approachable enough that your employees feel comfortable about telling you what is going on in their lives?  

While it’s hard to ignore employees who are underperforming, not recognizing those who are performing at consistently high levels daily can damage overall morale. Failing to recognize your best people will eventually demotivate them, leading to a reduction in their performance.  

Creating a shop environment with high performers takes a team concept with strong leadership. If you have employees not performing up to expectations, you need to ask yourself a few things: Are you doing all you can to establish those expectations that everyone must follow? Are you providing the right training for everyone? Are you having one-on-one employee meetings where you learn about your employee’s career goals? It’s also important to realize that no two people are alike. Everyone has different needs and wants, and no strategy works for everyone. Going the extra mile to know your employees will send the strongest message of all by communicating that you recognize them as individuals, not just workers.  

One thing worth mentioning: There will come a time when no matter what you do, there will be an employee who will not perform at the level you need. In this case, you’ll have to decide whether to tolerate or terminate. From my experience, to terminate for the sake of the team, and for the individual, may be the best choice.  

Let me leave you with this: Expecting high performance from others starts with you. Are you reaching your potential? Are you striving to improve and set high expectations for yourself? What you expect from others you should expect from yourself … and more.  

About the Author

Joe Marconi

Joe Marconi has more than four decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He is the owner of Osceola Garage in Baldwin Place, N.Y., a business development coach for Elite Worldwide, and co-founder of

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