Bad Employees Never Quit!

Posted on April 2, 2013.

I had to laugh when I read the recent article in the WSJ that validated what I learned years ago.  Bad employees are happy employees. In over 40% of the companies they surveyed, low performers were found to be more engaged and enjoyed working for their companies more than middle and high performers.  Why wouldn’t they be?

More often than not, poor performers have zero consequences to their actions. I’ve heard more than one new manager say,” I’m just going to make their life miserable and then I know they’ll quit.” NO THEY WON’T.  They never quit for all the reason this study has now demonstrated.  If you have a poor performer you have to take action. It’s not as hard as you think (unless you work for the Federal Government).  Here are some quick and easy steps to ensure your deadbeat moves out:

1.    Start with the “bad fit conversation”.  More than likely none of your predecessors has had an honest and direct conversation with this person.  Too many managers are crisis avoiders.  In fact, they probably recommended them for a transfer into your unit.  So start off with something soft like, “ you seem like a really great person, but I’m not sure this role is a good fit for your skill set”, and then go on to list all the reasons this is true.

2.     Begin the formal documentation process. It’s just a matter of time before the brief performance improvement you might see after step 1 starts to erode. So you need to put it in writing.  Unless your company has a formal document, you can us a simple counseling form that spells out exactly what’s expected, the date you want the task completed and what happens if he/she fails.  It’s important to keep the dates short, to be as specific as possible and include termination as a consequence.  You might want to run this by your own manager or HR partner first.

3.     Continue with updating the documentation. Again, it’s possible that the performance improves after your employee receives a written documentation, but make sure it’s not shelved.  Update it every quarter and include new goals. It is possible that your employee will improve forever, but in my experience, it really is about being a bad fit so it’s highly unlikely.

The real benefit of finally firing the poor performer is that the morale of your high performers increases exponentially.  Don’t be surprised when they come to your office and thank you for taking action.  Everyone knows when someone is skating by and it de-motivates the people around them.  Plus you earn the respect from your team for being someone that’s not afraid to make the hard decisions.

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