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Underperformers, Don't Hide Them! Help Them!

December 15, 2016


Every business owner has had that employee. The one you hope you don’t have to work with on a busy day. The employee who always shows up on time for their scheduled shift, but only does exactly what you ask them to do, and nothing more. The employee you wish you could fire, but you’re friends with their family. The employee who asks to go on break exactly two hours after their shift begins and returns to their post three minutes late. The employee who puts their cell phone in their back pocket and hides behind a filing cabinet to text their husband when they should be filing.


By contrast, most business people have had the absolute joy of working with that employee who has a wonderful “can do” attitude. They come to work smiling and never watch the clock. They learn what you teach them and rarely make the same mistakes twice. They are motivated and energetic. When they work, you are happy to pay them for making your day so much more productive and pleasant. You may even offer them overtime. You make plans for them and their future with your business. You sometimes even have a fear of losing them because if they go, you have five lame ducks standing in their wake.


It is easy to think that the model employee can save your business. It may give you comfort to think, as long as you have your right-hand man or woman, it doesn’t matter if you have a couple of duds. However, this is a false sense of security. It isn’t the model employee who will determine the success of your business; it’s the employee you hate who will determine where you are going and how quickly you get there.


The reason for this is simple. While you are busy teaching and training your prodigy in the back office, your underperformer is greeting your customers. Most of the time, weak employees are put in front line positions. They answer the phone. They ring the register. They are relegated to tasks that do not require much explanation or complex thought. In many cases, these are also the tasks that are highly visible to customers and those seeking your services. That gives them plenty of opportunities to define the image of your business and create avoidable problems for you. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than an uninformed and ill-trained employee.

Want to know what to do with weak employees? 


1. Don’t hide them, help them. While it may seem that you don’t have time to spend with a slow learner, you are paying them anyway. Make time to train your weak employees. This investment will never be fruitless because if the employee does not improve, you are then in the position to let them go if needed. By investing training hours into all employees, you give them the option to improve or discontinue employment with our organization. It is up to the employee. This positive action builds good will with employees of all performance levels.


2. Identify their strengths and leverage them. Maybe they aren’t incapable. Maybe they’re just bored. No employee really knows the reality of a job they applied for until they are actually working. Employers like to remember what they told the employee in the interview when things aren’t working out, but in all fairness, experience is the best teacher.  You hired the employee because you saw something in them you thought would benefit your business, now find it. Find out what motivates them and what parts of the job they like and give them more of that.


3. Provide them with a peer mentor. An interesting thing happens when employees are mentored by their peers. They improve. The peer to peer relationship gives the employee the opportunity to ask questions without the fear of punishment. Peer to peer mentoring cultivates more transparency and allows the employer to address issues they wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. Additionally, giving a tenured employee the opportunity to develop a new employee creates buy in and leads to additional investment in your business.


We all want a team full of good and excellent employees, and we can have them if we are willing to invest the time and energy needed to make the most out of every hire. The success of your business is reliant upon how well you can get your employees to walk in the same direction with you to the destination of your choice. You need depth of talent and that only comes through actively investing in improving the performance of your team.

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