I often ask business owners and managers if they are happy with their current team. The most popular answer is, “Sure…” That word is said without confidence or conviction, which indicates that I need to dig a little deeper. So, I use my standard follow-up: “Rank your team from best to worst — don’t overthink, just off the top of your head.”
It usually takes a minute, but once they realize I’m serious, they comply. The first team members listed are always easy — the best, the superstars, the employees that you wish made up your entire team. Next up are the people on the bubble. They could go either way, but you still need them to keep the machine running. And, finally, we come to the end of the line. The bottom employee in every category. This is where I like to spend my time because, if you thought about it, you spend most of your time with them as well.
The first question is, what makes these people the worst? In a complete team of superstars, the worst person could be a prize in any other organization. But, if they are true poor performers, we eventually get to the point — why do you keep them?
I had a smart boss once tell me that he never fired someone too soon, and when I thought about it, neither had I. Not once in my entire career did I think, If only I had held on to that person for a couple more months. The opposite was always true. And, once I got rid of the poor performer, people would come from all directions with backhanded praise for the action. “Finally,” “About time,” “What took so long?” “Did you know they did/said this?” It almost seems like the rest of our team is waiting for us to make the right decision for the success of the company, but they are afraid to bring it up until we do.
As an owner or a manager, you know the people I’m writing about, but I want to zoom in a little further. There is something else that we tend to tolerate, and, in my opinion, it can be worse than poor performance. That is a bad attitude. We keep these around for several reasons. Maybe they’re good at what we pay them to do, or they are our technical specialist. Whatever the reason, I want you to consider all the benefits weighed against someone working within your business who works against you at every opportunity.
To explain, let me ask you a question — do you have an employee who conducts a private series of meetings after you hold trainings or make improvements? If so, do you know if those are positive reinforcements of what you are trying to accomplish, or are they a series of, “this will never work,” gatherings? If you get a sick feeling in your gut when you see this happen, chances are you already know the answer. I want you to take that into consideration when you think about the employees in question.
These bad attitudes make it hard for the people who want to help you grow and improve by constantly pushing a negative agenda. They make themselves feel better by pointing out all the reasons your decisions won’t work. Now, don’t take this to an extreme — because we only have one perspective, we need to employ a diverse group of people. So, someone who challenges our thinking, and makes us better does not fall into this category. I am talking about the person who agrees with everything while you are speaking with him, and immediately begins working against your ideas. These are the people who need to find somewhere else to work.
My best advice in dealing with this type of employee is to confront the behavior immediately. Resist the urge to ask them about the situation and just bring it up as a matter of fact. Give them a chance to express all of their thoughts on the situation, and then make it very clear that the behavior will no longer be tolerated. Some people can be brought back from the abyss by making them a part of the solution. Those who can’t should be coached out of your business. If you read this article because you know you are keeping a bad attitude, make a serious plan to address it right away.