The True Costs of Managers Holding On to Under-Performers

one cartoon figure is way behind the others in a running race

For many new managers taking on the leadership of a team for the first time, their major concern is whether the team will “like” and “follow” them. First-time managers often mistakenly think that if the team members think they are “nice,” the team will be more engaged and productive. And “nice” means a manager that does not rock the boat or enforce consequences for under-performance…especially for those team members who are well-liked or have been around a long time. What these new managers don’t recognize in their naiveté are the costs of holding on to team members who lag behind in the race.

New manager training talks about going slow before going fast, and this is good advice. New supervisors should get the lay of the land before making big decisions and taking major steps for change.

1. Get to know your team. Learn what makes them tick…what motivates and drives them as well as what they most like to do and consistently do best. This is the way you can take advantage of their strengths. Employees who are well-matched to their job roles “like” their situation and are more likely to be happily engaged in their work. And higher levels of employee engagement directly correlate to higher levels of employee advocacy, discretionary effort and retention.

2. Assess individual performance. Every team has its top talent; and every team has its substandard performers. Your job as a new leader is to create the environment that gets the most out of your team. You need to set clear performance expectations, define meaningful rewards and consequences and then take a close look at why some are under-performing and take immediate steps to help them improve or move on gracefully.

3. Re-assess low performers. If there has been little effort made, no real improvement and no commitment to do better in spite of support, coaching and additional training, under-performers need to be moved elsewhere…either to a better suited position in the company or out.

And this is why…here are the consequences of overlooking poor performance. The company suffers in two ways:

• Internally
Poor performers drag down the motivation and commitment of workers who perform at or above the agreed-upon performance standards. The motivation and commitment to excellence take a hit across the board. Your top talent is increasingly discouraged. As under-performance is ignored, your high performers are liable to leave. Overall, productivity decreases.

• Externally
The reputation of your company is at risk when you are represented by employees who are inferior. You risk losing customers and advocates as they witness the deterioration of the quality of your workforce.

As a new manager you must honestly appraise the quality of your workers and face the negative implications of avoiding your responsibility to deal effectively with under-performers. There are significant costs. Are you willing to pay them?

Benchmark your management practices to see where you stand.

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