10 Lies Leaders Tell Themselves About Poor Performers
One of the most critical decisions a leader makes is whether to let go of poor performers … and yet most leaders have a tendency to hold on too long.
We’ve all been there. You have one of those poor performers on your team, the one you refer to as your problem child. The one who take up an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources, and who consistently under-performs. Sometimes they are the same employee who has an unusually high amount of drama surrounding them that always finds a way to impact their performance. The same one who does just enough to dance on the fringe of being put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) yet always finds a way back to safety … for a while.
For the record: I realize that people go through rough spells and that life gets in the way of work at times. That said, I am not talking about great (even good) performers who hit a rough patch. I am talking about the poor performers who are consistently a problem, never deliver, and whom you’ve already invested significant amounts of time trying to turn them around.
Below is a list of 10 lies Leaders tell themselves about poor performers. Read through the list a second time and see if you find yourself buying into one or more of these lies.
10 Lies Leaders Tell Themselves About Poor Performers:
- “He has great potential he just needs a little more time.” And yet, they’ve been on your team for well over a year.
- “She’s going to come around, I just need to guide her more, coach her more, mentor her more …” And you’ve already tried everything you can think of and nothing has significantly changed.
- “His problems (absenteeism, poor performance, bad attitude, etc.) are not impacting the rest of the team.” This one is especially dangerous because you’re subliminally sending a message to the rest of the team that poor performance is acceptable.
- “Maybe an outside coach could help her to overcome her issues.” Believe it or not many companies bring in outside coaches in an attempt to fix their poor performers … please don’t do this … it doesn’t work!
- “I’d rather have a body than no-body.” This could be a sign that you are not seeing the negative impact this person is having on those around them (including customers) Wake Up!
- “Finding good people takes a lot of time and that’s one thing I don’t have right now.” The fact that you don’t have enough time might be because you’re spending too much time trying to fix the poor performer.
- “He’s not a good fit for this job, but he will get better over time.” If they are not a fit they aren’t a good fit … find another place in the organization where they do fit and their skills are needed and valued. You’re not doing anyone a favor when you keep them in a position that is not aligned with their skills and giftedness. NOT EVERYONE WHO IS A LEADER SHOULD BE!
- “I’ve already invested 1, 2, or 3 years in her … I don’t want to throw it all away and start fresh.” This was an actual response to a problem child with one of my clients … as if continuing to pay for a service that doesn’t deliver what you are paying for actually makes sense.
- I can’t cut him loose he has a family to support, he really wants to do better, he says he wants to do better, etc. If you find yourself exerting more time and energy trying to turn some one around then the person you are trying to turn around … it is your problem not theirs.
- I don’t have the documentation to justify the termination. This one is pretty easy … START. Have the difficult conversation, discuss your expectations, give them a plan to follow, and then hold them accountable. If you don’t like conflict or you don’t know how to hold people accountable this is your problem not theirs get some help!
Once you make the decision to start the termination process you need to make sure you are following the company’s policies so you don’t end up with a wrongful termination suit. It is always a good idea to bring your HR folks into the mix before you decide to be sure your protecting yourself and the company. Chances are if they were a problem child while they were working for you … they will be a problem child while they are exiting.
Most employee problems aren’t the fault of the employee. The problem begins with a leader who tells themselves one of these lies or some variation and fails to address the issue head on. Most leaders wait until the problem grows so big it begins to seem too overwhelming to address it and so they put it off hoping it will work out itself. It very rarely if ever does!
Some times the kindest thing you can do for poor performers is give them a wake-up call by letting them go. They are either not a good fit for the job, your team, or your company. The good news is once you let them go … they are no longer your problem and you can fill their position with someone who brings value and gets the results you need to be successful!
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