A manager said to me, ““I assumed leadership of a department of sixteen people about three months ago. Most are reliable performers. A few are really good and one is marginal at best.”
“Would your team be better off if the marginal employee were gone?” I asked.
“No question, much better off.”
“Then why don’t you work with your human resources’ manager to professionally remove the employee?”
“The employee is sixty three years old. He was one of the first persons hired almost twenty years ago when the department was formed. There is scant chance of removing him.”
“Have you tried training and coaching?”
“He’s not really interested in getting better. I think he’s just holding on for a couple of years until he retires.”
When dealing with a persistent, low performer whom you cannot terminate, I think you just have to learn to tolerate the employee.
Be respectful of the low performer as a person, but do not waste time attempting to train, motivate, encourage, or improve the person’s attitude. Minimize disruptions as much as possible. Find work-arounds when you have to. Understand that you may have to check more often than you would like. Quit worrying about it.
Part 5 of 5
Helen, age 64, has been with the organization 33 years. For most of those years, Helen’s performance was exceptional. “She lived and breathed the organization,” is the way a previous boss described her.
Helen has recently experienced serious family problems that have affected her health to the point that she is unable to adequately perform her job. Helen says that she wants to work 10 more months and retire at 65.
The president said, “I’m in a dilemma, I feel sorry for Helen and I’m very grateful for what she has done for us. Still, I’m not in a position to hire another person. If Helen stays, others will have to take some of her work.”
“Could Helen take an early retirement?” I asked.
The president reported that he had suggested early retirement but Helen said that she would like to stay on until sixty-five if she could.
I say tell Helen and anyone else that you absolutely will honor her request. Helen’s thirty-plus years of loyalty and productivity are surely enough to earn her another ten months.
When others complain about having to do part of Helen’s work, listen with empathy. Smile and say, “I understand and I really appreciate what you are doing to help us out here.”