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Underachiever ( English underachiever from English to achieve , "anything done to bring" "achieve a goal" or English low performer , Dutch. Onderpresteren ) are persons who permanently below their physical and / or mental capacity remain. The opposite is the overachiever (or overperformer ).


Important performance sectors in which underperformance plays a major role are school performance , work performance or sport performance . The performance actually achieved is measured on average with people of a) the same age (so-called peers) and b) the same standard of the expected performance. For pupils, performance results from school grades ( performance appraisals , school reports ), for employees from assessments ( performance appraisal , employee evaluation , official assessment ) and for athletes from sports grades . Those who are permanently above the average grade ( high performance ) are accordingly overachievers (or overperformers), those who are permanently below ( low performance ) are called underperformers. Performance benchmarks can also be expectations , requirements or target agreements .



The terms underperformance or underperformance are most often applied to students. Pupils who fail in their academic performance well below the level of their intellectual capabilities or who “despite a demonstrably very high level of intelligence in school do not achieve above-average or even below-average performance” ( gifted ) are regarded as underperformers . These are students who lag far behind what they would be able to achieve based on their dispositions .


The causes of underperformance or unexpected performance cannot be clearly determined; in the case of giftedness, for example, they can "only rarely be ascribed to a single cause." On the one hand, they are presumably simultaneously on the school side (e.g. little motivating lessons), on the part of the family (e.g. lack of interest in the child's progress in school, problematic parenting style , excessive performance expectation) as well as on the part of the student (e.g. personality traits such as fear , avoidance of exertion). In terms of the motivation structure, underperformers tend to be less motivated to perform, but depend above average on educational support.

One reason for the underperformance can lie in the excessive demand for performance, which is characteristic of many gifted people: "The actual performance of gifted people depends largely on the ability to endure the uncertainty while working and the dissatisfaction with the imperfection of a completed job", Andrea writes Brackmann . After that, the so-called “underperformers” find it difficult to mediate between their high performance expectations and their real capabilities.

The restlessness and nervousness mentioned in many places, which are not easy to distinguish from the appearance of ADHD , can also lead to poor performance. Because for some gifted people as well as for people with ADHD it is true that the "stimulus openness" and "high sensitivity of the senses" can negatively affect the ability to concentrate.

A negative self-concept can also be partly responsible for low motivation. This can be caused by a “restrictive, normative, devaluing or exclusionary attitude of the environment” or of the parents; However, as Brackmann and Scheidt found in their psychotherapeutic practice, this can also be caused by a negative self-concept of the parents. In the environment of underperformers and those who refused to perform, it was not uncommon to find at least one highly gifted parent who stubbornly suppressed their own capacities.

The use of the term “underperformers” leads to an unhelpful stigmatization, which primarily serves to relieve all co-responsible persons (society, educational institutions, parents).

Inferior among the gifted

The following findings are available on gifted people (people with an IQ above the 98th percentile or at least two standard deviations) and underperformance:

  • In some guidebooks (and also in some scientific articles) up to 50% less performers are stated among the gifted. How many underperformers are identified ultimately only depends on how one defines “underperformance”.
  • The statistically expected proportion of underperformers in the sense of school performance below the median among the highly gifted amounts to 12% to 13%.
  • The Marburg gifted project defines any deviation from the standard performance as underperformance for gifted students
    • Attendance at high school,
    • no repetition of a grade,
    • Grade point average 3.0 or better.

Among the highly talented students examined, the proportion of underperformers was 15%.



Underperformers are employees who do not fully utilize their personal capabilities and thus remain below the average performance of comparable employees. The employee does not have to perform any work “of average type and quality”, but has to do his work properly under the strain of his possible abilities, therefore work carefully and concentrated and to the fullest of his possible abilities and skills. Quantitative and / or qualitative underperformance below half of the average normal performance means a gradual performance deficit, which in fact justifies a behavior-related termination.

Legal issues

Non- performance , poor performance or the breach of ancillary contractual obligations are deemed to be work performance that does not comply with the employment contract . The employee violates his duty to work if he culpably fails to perform the work owed without there being an exemption (non-performance) or if he poorly performs the work owed (poor performance). Non-fulfillment occurs when the employee does not show up for work, is only physically present ( internal resignation ) or only does private work. As subsequent performance because of the continuing obligation is impossible, he gets to the principle of "no work no pay" no pay ( § 326 1 para. 1 sentence BGB ). If the employee is responsible for the impossibility , § 323 BGB applies . The cases of poor performance are more difficult, in which work is performed but deviates unfavorably from the owed qualitatively ( work quality , error rate ) or quantitatively ( work intensity , work volume ). A reduction in pay is not possible here.

In December 2003, the Federal Labor Court (BAG) commented on the work performance as follows: "If the work performance is not or not described in more detail in the contract, as is usually the case in terms of quantity and quality, the content of the performance promise depends on the one hand on the employer Work content to be determined by exercising the right of direction and, on the other hand, according to the personal, subjective capabilities of the employee. The worker has to do what he should and do it as well as he can. The obligation to perform is not rigid, but dynamic and is based on the performance of the employee. An objective yardstick is not to be used ... The person obliged to do the duty owes the 'work', not the 'work' ”.


Behavioral underperformance is a performance disorder that can be traced back to a lack of will and willingness to perform. A person-related underperformance exists if the necessary will and willingness to perform are present, but these can not be accessed due to uncontrollable circumstances ( illness ). In addition, a distinction must be made between poor performance and poor suitability. Deficiencies in performance represent “willful underperformance” because the employee holds back his workforce and does not perform as he can. Aptitude deficiencies mean that the required qualification is lacking or are due to age-related, illness-related or physical / mental causes.

Legal consequences

It threatens the reduction or cancellation of bonuses , salary reduction, disciplinary transfer or dismissal subject to change . In any case, the underperformance is a career obstacle , which can lead to a termination within the framework of the social selection of § 1 Abs. 3 KSchG . With the prevailing opinion , the case law on underperformance as a reason for termination ( English low-performer termination ) is consistent. If the employee performs significantly below average work over a longer period of time, this may under certain circumstances socially justify a behavior-related or personal termination within the meaning of Section 1 (2) KSchG. This is especially true when he's not working as well as he actually can.


The underperformance plays a role especially in competitive sport . Qualifications represent an important hurdle here, in which an underperformance results in non-participation or elimination from a competition. An important indicator of underperformance in sport is relegation during relegation, relegation to a lower league or disqualification . In professional sport , the athlete is to be regarded as an employee, so that labor law applies here. The refusal to perform in sport is an underperformance that can be traced back to certain intentions of the athlete.

Stock exchange trading

In stock market jargon are the performance the underperformers , performer or Over performers differed depending on whether the market development of securities or other underlying assets a certain benchmark ( stock index , return below) permanently runs with the market or exceed. "Underperformers" are, for example, stocks that are below expectations or below the general stock market trend in the short to medium term .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Minor performers  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • Susann Rainsborough: Don't call me stupid. Considerations on school failure. Rainsborough, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-831-14356-0 .
  • Piero Rossi: Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder - also in the gifted? In: German Society for the Gifted Child eV (Hrsg.): In the labyrinth. Gifted children in school and society. Lit, Münster et al. 2001, ISBN 3-8258-5205-9 , pp. 48-63.
  • Detlef H. Rost : Underachievement from a psychological and educational point of view. How many gifted underachievers are there actually? In: News & science. Promotion of talented students and talent research. No. 15, January 2007, ZDB -ID 2257343-4 , pp. 8-9, ( online (PDF; 38.51 kB) ).
  • Jürgen vom Scheidt : The drama of the gifted. Between genius and refusal to perform. Kösel, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-466-30635-3 .
  • Barbara Schlichte-Hiersemenzel: On developmental difficulties of gifted children and adolescents in interaction with their environment. Experience and possible solutions. An experience report. Study on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research 2001.
  • Christine Spahn: When school fails. From the ordeal of gifted children. MUT-Verlag, Asendorf 1997, ISBN 3-89182-066-6 .
  • Margit Stamm: Underchallenged, unrecognized, brilliant. Marginalized groups in our society. Rüegger, Zurich et al. 2007, ISBN 978-3-7253-0872-9 .
  • Harald Wagner (Ed.): Promotion of gifted students and teacher training. Contributions to the conference of the ABB e. V. in Königswinter October 26-28, 2001. Karl Heinrich Bock, Bad Honnef 2002, ISBN 3-87066-849-0 .

Individual evidence

  1. Annette Brinkmann: accompanying learning processes professionally , 2011, p. 147.
  2. Heinz Holling / Uwe P. Kanning: Hochbegabung: Research results and funding opportunities , 1999, p. 63.
  3. ^ Esther Grindel: Learning processes of gifted children in the free work of Montessori pedagogy , 2007, p. 50.
  4. Mia L. Kellmer Sclerosis: The concept of "Under Achievements" , in: Klaus K. Urban (ed.), Gifted children. Psychological, educational, psychiatric and sociological aspects , Schindele, Heidelberg 1982, ISBN 3-88070-353-1 , pp. 131-134, here p. 132.
  5. Andrea Brackmann: Very normally gifted. Life as a gifted adult , 3rd edition. 2008, p. 161.
  6. Piero Rossi: Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder - also in the gifted? , in: German Society for the Gifted Child eV (Ed.), Im Labyrinth. Gifted children in school and society , 2001, pp. 48–63, here p. 51.
  7. Barbara Schlichte-Hiersemenzel: On the self-concept of gifted children and adolescents , in: German Society for the Gifted Child eV (Ed.), Im Labyrinth. Gifted children in school and society , 2001, pp. 64–70, here p. 67.
  8. Detlef H. Rost: Underachievement from a psychological and educational point of view. How many gifted underachievers are there actually? , in: News & science. Promotion of Gifted Students and Research on Talented Talent No. 15, January 2007, ZDB -ID 2257343-4 , pp. 8–9.
  9. ^ Gregor Brandt: Gifted and Highly Performing Young People - Comments on the Marburg Gifted Project . In: Labyrinth . tape 24 , no. 69 , 2001, p. 10–15 ( full text [accessed May 10, 2013]).
  10. BAG, judgment of July 13, 1988, Az. 2 AZR 576/87, full text .
  11. ^ BAG, judgment of May 21, 1992, Az. 2 AZR 551/91, full text .
  12. a b Christina Baumgartl: The employer's scope for dismissals for operational reasons within the framework of Section 1 (3) sentence 2 KSchG with regard to underperformers and older employees , 2013, p. 105 ff.
  13. Michael Fuhlrott / Patrick Mückl: Practical Guide Low-Performance, Disease, Severe Disability , 2014, p. 433.
  14. Asusa Schul / Joachim Wichert: Poor performance of the employee as a reason for behavioral, personal or operational dismissal , in: DB 2005, p. 1907
  15. Ulrich Tschöpe: "Low Performer" in labor law , in: BB 2006, p. 216.
  16. BAG, judgment of December 11, 2003, Az. 2 AZR 667/02, full text , Rn. 90.
  17. BAG, judgment of January 17, 2008, Az. 2 AZR 536/06, full text = NZA 2008, 693; BAG, judgment of February 10, 2005, Az. 2 AZR 584/03, full text = NZA 2005, 1207.