Under-performance = hiring more people?

under performance hiring

Uh oh, Joe…

We see it time and time again. Someone is under-performing in the team. Let’s call the person Joe (not a real person).

You’re Joe’s boss. You’re amazing and have a happy team. You notice that your team isn’t hitting all of its goals. Being the switched on leader that you are, you start to interrogate this a bit. It looks like one particular area is affecting the team. Turns out, it’s Joe’s area of responsibility.


You’re busy, but this matters so you find time to sit down with Joe. Turns out, he’s overwhelmed. He isn’t capable of carrying the same workload and responsibilities that everyone else on the team easily accomplishes. You work with Joe to come up with a plan to support him lifting his game.

The following month, you sit down with Joe again. His performance hasn’t shifted at all, in spite of the coaching, support and upskilling. You have another team member look into it and turns out it really is a manageable workload for any other person. There isn’t any hiding from the facts, it’s time to make a decision.

Where it goes wrong

Let’s rewind the tape to get the facts:

  • Joe is a nice guy
  • Everyone on the team likes him
  • You’ve provided coaching
  • You’ve identified there isn’t a skills gap
  • Joe isn’t improving 🙁
  • It’s a reasonable workload that every other member of the team could manage as a role
  • There isn’t another suitable role that you can move Joe into without damaging your reputation

When presented the facts, most people say they would start performance managing Joe. The truth is, that’s rarely the case. The problem is our emotions.

What about Joe?

Joe is a nice guy. The team loves him and they don’t mind that he under-performs. It annoys them, but they like him far too much to wish him gone. Joe leaving the team “feels wrong”. So what do you do?

Most often, we hire a second person to do the role of one effective person. As organisations grow, leaders get busy and culture morphs. We add people to fill in performance gaps that are related to poor performance rather than an increased need for staff. The organisation “fattens” and we end up with inefficiencies (there goes this year’s OpEx budget). Politics set in and people know that if you are “liked and friendly” you will have a safe place here. Crap.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. I had a failing sales/bidding team in a past life and so we added some casual help. That casual help became part-time and then full time. Before we knew it, we had 2 people doing what could have been done by one effectively performing employee. Everyone liked the person, so it went on for months.

Eventually, we had to make the tough call and make the person redundant. The job returned to being successfully done by one person, not two. The savings was a full salary and the team morale bounced back very quickly because we did it humanely and with good reason.

So what do you do?

If you can objectively review the facts and find that hiring another person is like putting a crutch in place, then you know what must be done. The key here is to be HUMANE in how you treat Joe. Just because Joe isn’t performing doesn’t mean we have to treat him poorly. Be humane as you move him through performance management. Offer to find him suitable alternative positions where you know he can perform and make sure you have a positive send-off. The rest of the team will know that even though Joe had to be moved on (for the right reasons), the organisation still cares about people and will do their best to be kind.

Make the tough call once you have all the facts. Future you will thank you for it.

Sorry, Joe.

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