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Even the 30th Time Won’t Help

Even the 30th Time Won’t Help

By: Ross Paterson

Underperforming Employees – Part 4

When the only consequence our underperformers have to deal with after we have told them what we want 29 times, is listening to it again the 30th time, they will not change.

However, if you have followed steps 1-4 (see previous blogs: Crack Open the Door, Rehabilitate Or Release), clearly placing them on a rehabilitate or release program, they have to make a move. Here are the two responses we see most frequently with our clients.

Improvement begins immediately. The underperformer now knows, with absolute certainty, that their future employment is at risk. The work the leader has done creating clarity, setting expectations and measuring results gets the employee focused on delivering a dramatically improved performance. Almost like a magic wand. We can’t say it enough; Clarity Precedes Results, Leaders Create Clarity, Put it in Writing. If your employee improves their results, the process worked.

The other response is the employee leaves. In this case, the underperformer has not bought into the vision, is not willing to make any changes, and lacks the self-awareness to see that that they are even a small part of the problem. If they resign, the process worked.

The real leadership challenge at this point is the person who says they want to stay and verbally commits to improve their performance. But, absolutely nothing changes. What could be happening here? Frequently this person is ‘marking time.’ They need the job with you until they can find their next opportunity. When you get to your next 1-1 progress check-up, make this statement. “It looks like you have already made a decision.” Then be uncomfortably quiet until they respond.

This is not a callous, hatchet move. It is the psychology of making an adult decision. I am glad to pay the wrong employee for a few weeks while they find another job. Getting their negative contributions out of the team is an immediate productivity gain in the business. Helping them decide to resign is clean, and it reduces potential future costs of unemployment filings. A win-win.

What if none of this works? Tune in for our final blog on underperformers next week.

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