I had a manager tell me the other day that he didn’t want to manage someone out as he
was concerned that he wouldn’t get a replacement headcount. His rationale was
“a person who is a below average performer is better than no one in the role.”
I replied in my usual subtle way, “you couldn’t be more wrong.”
The fact was that his team had figured out a long time ago that this person was a
non-performer and they were wondering what was taking him so long to figure it
out and take action. It was likely impacting their engagement and their
confidence in him as a leader. They were covering for the low performer and
doing more work to cover mistakes or missing work from the employee in
By not taking action he was in fact negatively impacting the team’s performance and
his as well. The risk was not that he wouldn’t get a replacement headcount but
that some of his best people were already thinking about leaving. Even worse
while they may not have quit and left the team they may have quit and stayed.
Meaning they too were now a drag on the teams productivity and performance.
I had another discussion recently with a manager who had several top performers who
were significantly under market from a compensation perspective. She was saying
“what can I do – I don’t have budget to give them an increase.” I went back and
looked at what she did in the recent merit round. She gave everyone on her team
an increase close to the average given for the merit cycle. Top performers were
within a percent of average and even those who were rated in the middle range
for performance were given increases close to those who were rated above
“What am I supposed to do?” she said, “I don’t want to upset anyone.” Well the reality is that
by doing nothing and giving everyone something likely had a high cost to the
long term engagement of her top performers.
Employees know all too well who the best people are, they work with them every day, they
see that they have the most compelling ideas, and their engagement is stronger.
They are the people others go to for help or advice.
Invest in your best and help those who are not to up their game or invite them to build
their career with our competition.