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The Hardest Decisions

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As leaders we care about the individuals who make up our teams. We want people to be successful personally and professionally. When it comes to dealing with low performing employees, we can be tender-hearted and make excuses for why we ignore their behavior. We often think we can help the problem people change and improve, we don’t want to feel like the “bad guy.” However our reluctance to address low performers can actually be doing more harm than good for our teams. For an organization to become great, leaders need to dig deep, find the problems, who the problem people are, and address poor performance and/or behavior.

Address the Problem People

When we avoid addressing poor performance our culture and team morale suffers. High and middle performers are often negatively impacted and may even become frustrated and leave the organization. If we allow toxic people to stay in our organizations, we will eventually hit a wall and will not be able to continuously improve results as an organization. Tolerating non-compliance affects the team, the leader, customers or clients, and the success of the entire organization.

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

     – Gruenter & Whitaker

Leaders are the only people who can address poor performance. When we deal with low performing individuals, we stop their behaviors from becoming contagious and eroding morale. Addressing the problem people engages employees, reinforces expectations, increases trust, and encourages high and middle/solid performers to stay and continue to sustain and improve their performance.

We all have low performing moments, its just that some people chose to live in low performing behaviors all or most of the time, these individuals are toxic to an organization. If you have coached, supported, addressed their behavior, and given your employees ample opportunities to improve their skills, and there is still a persistent pattern of low performance, it’s time to consider working with the employee to transition elsewhere. Reflect; are you working harder on the employee’s performance than the employee?

It’s possible the employee is a good fit for the organization, just not in their current role. If there is an available position they are interested in, this could be a good opportunity to assist the individual into transitioning to another role. It can be tricky to shift low performing leaders to another role however, and often times they will prefer to leave the organization rather than be demoted.

When an employee has had every opportunity to advance their skills in multiple seats and performance has not improved, it’s most likely time to transition the person out of the organization. While this can be hard for leaders emotionally, don’t wait for a position to open up for the person or add an insignificant position just for them. When people aren’t compliant, don’t live the standards or values, and become toxic to the organization, leaders need to get them off the bus sooner rather than later.

3 Steps to Transition Low Performers

Listen to Low Performers: Who Are They? And be honest with yourself about who your lowest performing employees are.

Review the characteristics of low performers and make a list of the individuals you need to address on your team.

Spend time preparing for each individual conversation based on where the performance of the individual is. Have you conducted any performance conversations before with this person? Have you documented their behavior, or non-compliance? Gather any examples of poor performance and previous conversations.

Meet with your supervisor to update them on the situation. Be honest about what you have documented and what you have not. Contact human resources to implement the proper process and documentation.

Depending on the duration and severity of the performance problems, use the D.E.S.K. conversation template and compliance conversations to prepare for addressing the indiviudal.

We want to give people every opportunity to be successful. If we have supported, coached, and conducted performance and compliance conversations with the individual without getting results, it is time to make a decision about moving the individual out of their role or out of the organization.

Ask Yourself:

  • Is the person a good cultural fit who has the opportunity to transition to a different role with in the organization?
  • Is there another more appropriate role available?

If not, work with your organization’s human resource team to follow the appropriate process to remove the individual from the organization.

Model the Culture You Want

“You create the culture in your environment.” – Natalie Harder, Chancellor, SLCC.

If you want a positive culture in your organization, as the leader realize you set the tone for the culture of your organization. Hold up the mirror and reflect on how you can model the culture you want for your organization. Culture change happens one interaction at a time and causes a ripple through an organization from person to person.

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