“Manage Them Up or Manage Them Out


“How was your week?” I asked a manager.

“Not so good.”

“Were you dealing with demanding customers?”

“No.  But I spent a lot of time with three of my employees who either made mistakes, missed deadlines, irritated co-workers, wasted effort on low-priority tasks or all of the above.” 

In surveys, I’ve asked hundreds of managers who have recommended termination of an employee if, after reflection, they thought it was a mistake. Almost one hundred percent say their recommendation to terminate was sound, even after months or years have passed.

My observation suggests that we seldom terminate nonperformers too early, but we frequently allow them to linger too long.  Time is a leader’s most important asset, and time spent coaching, cajoling or coddling nonproductive team members is seldom a good investment.  And some studies show that marginal performers take almost twenty percent of their leaders’ time.

The old slogan of “manage employees up or manage them out” may sound harsh but is probably a good practice.  Of course, coach and train employees to get better (manage them up).  For those who perform below standard but do not improve, work with your HR partners to remove them (manage them out).

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