There are lots of questions coming in around the episode I did recently regarding underperformance. One such question I received was: can I not just let the person who isn’t performing leave at their own pace? Can I just let them set the tone for that? My answer to that is a strong no. You set the pace when removing underperformers.
If you allow the person to set the pace, it will damage your business, plain and simple. Why? Because the bulk of underperformers want to give it “one more shot.” Even people who have told you, “Boss, when you see me underperforming or if you think I can’t make it on this team, please just come and tell me so I can find another position.” Yes, even those people are caught off guard with their underperformance 90% of the time and will ask for more time to improve, or will ask for additional training.
Your business will be damaged by allowing that person to leave on their own terms, at their own pace, because in the interim you will lose the rest of your team. You see, you already probably told your team that part of your brand is that you are fair and consistent. (Remember, we talked about that when we introduce ourselves to our team.) But when you are not being consistent by allowing an underperformer to stay on the team, you aren’t being fair. Everyone else is working hard, they are meeting or exceeding your expectations, etc. But one person isn’t. Yet, you aren’t paying the team more for their great performance, you aren’t giving them anything extra. But the underperformer is still getting paid . . .
You start to lose trust from the rest of your team. Additionally, your business is impacted because your top talent stops pushing. This won’t happen right away, but it will eventually happen. Their mindset will shift and they will start to ask themselves questions like: If she isn’t getting rid of this poor performing person, then why am I pushing so hard? Obviously I’m going to get to keep my job. There is nothing to lose.” They lower the bar!
Other times your talent leaves the company altogether. They see that you aren’t living up to the brand you shared with them, you aren’t asking everyone to achieve the same results, and because your team is dependent upon each other, you are costing your other team members money, through bonuses, and incentives that are being negatively impacted by one person.
For all of these reasons and probably more, you must realize and own that you set the pace when removing underperformers. It starts with the initial conversation with the underperformer calling out the gaps. You then follow your discipline policy (create the policy if you don’t have it!).
Even if you don’t tell your team about taking action, they will know. People love to talk. So most likely the underperforming team member will share your conversations with their peers. And even if they don’t, your team will see your peer trying to improve her performance.
You shouldn’t share your actions with the rest of the team, maintain confidentiality. It should only take you several months to help this individual see they cannot perform on your team and help them find another position or remove them from the company altogether.
When you set the pace, your team can trust you, they can count on you to be consistent in your expectations of each team member, and they know you will take care of them personally by removing the barriers of underperformance holding the entire team back. This is where you want to be. This is the leader you want to be and the tone you want to set. So think through this, create your plan now, and be ready to execute it when the time comes.