Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leadership Series - Part IX - What About the Under-Performer?

Okay, so far all the posts have assumed that everything is great with those you are leading. You treat everyone with respect, you are getting respect in return, everyone is doing what they are supposed to.  Tasks are being completed, communication is amazing, the lines of accountability are being respected. Everything is great! Utopia!?  Yes, that must be where you are because realistically, you should probably remove your rose coloured glasses and realize that things are not always going to be that way.

No matter how much you strive for perfection, not everyone will fall in step behind you. At any given time, someone may be trying to get ahead of you, undermine you, sabotage you, ignore you or just plain not bother doing what you ask. Harsh? Maybe, but you have to be prepared to deal with the situation if and when it arises.

The key thing is that you just can't let things fester. They have to be addressed before they get way out of hand. What is it about one bad apple spoiling the barrel? It is a cliche but it applies. Unfortunately, a disgruntled individual can often influence others quicker than a solid performer. Why? Because people see someone getting away with something. Why should someone work their butt off when the slacker next door is being paid roughly the same salary for doing half the work? It spreads like the worst possible epidemic.

The situation should be addressed first by the immediate supervisor. If that doesn't work, then it should be elevated. The problem should be identified, explained to the employee and, most importantly, documented. Consequences for failure to improve need to be explained. And they have to be real consequences. Don't just blow smoke. The employee has to realize that you will carry out your threats or they will not have any meaning. Try to understand the reason for the poor performance. There may be things you can help the employee with, such as training.

Sometimes there is nothing to be done. The employee could just be a square peg in a round hole. If that it the case, it is time for that individual to move on. The key, once again is to to make it as quick and as painless as possible.  Your organization and everyone involved will be the better for it.

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