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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Why We Hang On To Underperformers Too Long

It’s not enjoyable. The day you start to enjoy letting an underperformer go is the day you disqualify yourself from healthy leadership. On the other hand, I believe if we ask leaders if they felt a considerable relief after letting certain underperforming employees go, I am certain they would respond in the affirmative.

You play the role of the nice leader. You have a deep need to be accepted by all of your staff and an even deeper need of approval. So you feel you might lose the approval of some of your other staff if you let a certain underperformer go, especially if the person is liked by the rest of your team. Even so, you should not let this get in the way of doing what is right for your team or your organization. You may be even really like this person or have developed a strong friendship with them. You also may need a few friends outside work.

You will have to work more. So, if you let an underperformer go, there will be additional work which will have to be done and you may have to do it in the interim. Or, you may have to ask others on the team to take up the slack. This is another critical reason we stay in denial. Unfortunately, if they are truly underperforming, the work really isn’t getting accomplished anyway, and if it is, it’s more than likely below organizational standards.

They have been here a long time. So, you believe you or another leader has committed the sin of allowing the person to believe they are doing fine for so long, there is no changing it now. I agree, this is very cruel, especially if the person is in the latter stages of their working life. You better start outlining performance standards and expectations this very minute. Do not delay one day longer. Remember, this should all be a two-way street.

You don’t think you have given them enough time. Is it reality or an excuse. Have you done everything you can to help the person succeed? If so, then more than likely, more time is not the cure for underperforming. If not, then yes, you need to re-dedicate yourself to being a better coach for this person without doing the job for them. It starts with honesty with yourself and with the underperformer. You should realize you know the answer the very first time it crosses your mind to let them go. The rest will be excuses.

What other reasons can you add as to why we hang on to underperformers too long?

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