Dealing with a problem employee takes courage AND heart

03/27/2015 | Roger and Susie Engelau

If you have a problem employee this article’s for you. If you’ve got even one person on your team who doesn’t pull his/er weight, complains a lot, doesn’t have the willingness or doesn’t have the ability to learn and do what they need to do, I hope you’ll take action as a result of this post—for the sake of the problem employee as well as your’s.

Cruel and Darwinian or Fair and Effective? That’s the title of chapter 3 in Jack Welch’s book, Winning, and he’s talking about “differentiation,” the process of assessing and separating your employees into the top 20%, the middle 70%, and the bottom 10%. All managers naturally differentiate in their heads. Welch just advocates that you act on that differentiation.

Benefits to your company and to you
Differentiation causes us to view the problem employee with a different label; mis-matched employee is a better descriptor. While it’s true that they need to be removed from your company, you do so with the attitude that their skills are a better match for another type of job.

There are a lot of other reasons to differentiate. It insures you have the best people working for you and that’s money in the bank. It increases the chance that your top performers stay. It fosters a culture of high performance. For you, it saves a lot of time. Managers typically spend 80% of their time dealing with 20% of their people—i.e. your problem employee.

Benefits to your top performers
They feel appreciated by your acknowledgement. Treating people equally never meant treat them the same. In fact, no one feels special and unique if they’re treated just like everyone else. We each want to be known for our individuality. If you’re the top performer in your company, chances are you know it. If you don’t think your boss knows it, you’re probably keeping an ear in the market for a better-paying job where you’ll be recognized.

Benefits to, yes, the problem employee
Chances are good that they’re going about their daily work knowing they’re not performing as well as most others and they carry the stress of that. Chances are good they’re not in the right job for their skills and knowledge and even their desires and they don’t feel good about it. Many, many people are afraid of losing their jobs—even when they hate the job! Your goal is to help them find what they want to do, do well, and help them get there. More often than not, they go on to more success and increased happiness in other jobs. I recommend you invest in career counseling/job placement services for them, even if minimally.

What to do with each group
The top 20% — Shower them with bonuses, stock options, praise, attention, love, development, positive feedback, thoughtful goal-setting, recognition, and whatever it takes to let them know you appreciate them.

The middle 70% — This is your “vital majority” and you can’t function without their skills, energy, and commitment. Keep them motivated with development, positive feedback, thoughtful goal-setting, and recognition.

The bottom 10% –Help them exit successfully and with dignity. Be candid and caring.

Read more about this in Winning (starting on p. 37). I’ll be blogging more about other Jack Welch concepts this month.