“Have you talked to the employee about his behaviors?” I asked.
“Yes, a couple of times. He gets defensive and makes excuses. He’ll improve a little for a week or two. I think he tries but he eventually reverts to his normal, whiney self.”
“Do you think you are better off with the employee on your team, or would your team be better off without him?”
“It depends on the day. Some days, I think we are better off with him. Other days, I think we would be better off without him.”
For such employees, Netflix has designed the “keeper test.” Suppose the employee told you that he was considering leaving in a couple of months to take a similar job with a competitor. Would you try hard to convince the employee to stay?
If the answer is “yes,” accept the employee’s behavior and get on with your life. Forget about trying to turn the whiney complainer into a reliable team player.
If the answer is “no,” work with human resources and prepare an exit plan for the employee. Heck, give the employee a nice severance pay. “Adequate performance” is just not good enough.