Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Beware of the Slacker

Have you ever worked somewhere where co-workers were slackers—where others didn’t seem to pull their weight or get their job done? That is a dangerous work environment as it breeds disharmony and creates an atmosphere which is anything but cohesive.

I have experienced this many times and in each case it destroys teamwork. As a leader, you must do everything you can to keep this from happening.

I recently read the following in an email from John Maxwell:

In addition to the personal toll, leaders jeopardize their relationships with all-star performers by avoiding the removal of unproductive employees. Having to rely on an undependable colleague drains a high-performance individual. Likewise, a person who pours passion and energy into their job is tremendously de-motivated when a lazy worker receives promotion or recognition. Ultimately, top talent will take flight if it perceives a leader is unwilling to eliminate mediocrity from the midst of a company.

Leaders can actively address performance issues by looking out for telltale signs of mediocre employees:
  • They stubbornly resist change

  • They are reactive rather than proactive

  • They are habitually lazy and unprepared

  • They make promises, but they don't deliver results

  • They shirk responsibility and pass on blame

  • They identify problems without finding solutions.

In business, sometimes a leader is forced to drop the axe. It seems harsh, but in reality, tolerating mediocrity poses greater danger to an organization than the unpleasantness of having to fire an employee.


Mark Goodyear said...

Hilarious graphic, Jim. I love what you're quoting here. In my experience, though there is a lot of gray between super-slacker and super-worker.

Top talent will take flight from mediocrity, but sometimes you can't get rid of everyone except the top talent or there wouldn't be enough people left.

The real question I'm interested in is this: how do you take someone who is an average performer and inspire them to be highly productive? Or is that a hopeless cause?

Jim Lange said...

Mark, thanks for checking in! Great questions! I don't know if I have a clear answer but I will give it my best shot.

In my experience I think it depends on the person. Some people flat out don't want to improve. No matter what, they will not get out of their comfort zones. Or they just aren't happy unless they are complaining. If either of these are true and I don't sense any way to move them along, I would ask them to take their talents elsewhere.

However, if someone shows a desire to improve, even if it is a small desire, I would try my best to work with and be patient with that person. I would also set up benchmarks with them that would give them expectation levels for them to hit.

After some time, if they are not showing any signs of improving, it might be time to make a change.

Letting someone go is probably my least favorite thing to do and I am not trying to take this subject lightly. I believe in taking care of the individual; however, as leaders, our primary responsibility is for the organization we are leading.