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Managing Employees

How to deal with average to slightly below average employees

How to deal with average to slightly below average employees
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Managing people is one of the hardest tasks for a business owner. While great employees are priceless, the bad ones can drain out all your time and energy.

Dealing with a bad hire might be an easy decision where you just let him go, but the ones who are the hardest to deal with are people who do just enough to keep their job. These are employees who are always on the edge with their performance ranging from average to below average.

They may show up to work every day, might even complete most of the tasks that are assigned to them, but they’ll abuse your company’s flexibility policies and will very rarely ever take any initiative or stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone. These employees rely on instructions for everything. They’re just not mentally invested in their job.

A lot of managers are not sure how to deal with these employees, and hence delay this decision until it is too late. These employees keep a company from growing.

Years can go by but they will still be in the same position, while their peers will move on to bigger things.

Here’s my three point formula to deal with such employees:

#1 Identify the traits you want in your ideal employee

What I’m talking about is not skills or talent, but other things like commitment, honesty, loyalty that are common to every player on the team irrespective of his job description. In our company, we’re looking for people who are highly teachable, supportive of other people on the team, self-managed, service minded and are looking for a life experience rather than just a job. If they don’t fit this description, we very rarely hire them. These are qualities that bind a team together. Eventually a team comes together based on common value systems.

#2 Figure out if this employee has these traits

If the employee you’re dealing with has these traits, then you may have to look at other issues that might be inhibiting their work.

If they were good when you hired them, and this is just a recent behavior then it could be a case of burnout, personal problems, or even issues like drug or alcohol abuse (you can verify their drug use status with an over the counter drug test).

But if that’s not the case, then it’s important to have an honest discussion. Tell them what you think, and offer them support to learn and grow. Skills can be taught but attitude is hard to change.

Termination of employment has to be the last resort, try to reassign them to different activities and departments within your company to see how they react.

Dipeka Saxenna, who works for a top MNC in Mumbai says, “If I see someone slacking, I’d give her extra work and push her outside of her comfort zone, and see how she reacts. If it’s a problem with attitude, then that’s a deal breaker. Either you have the right attitude or you don’t. It’s not something that can be taught.”

#3 Make an informed choice

Managers get paid the big bucks for making smart decisions. It’s easy to ignore awkward situations and let things pass by, especially when you are doing well. But most big problems start small. It’s easier to deal with them when they’re small. So don’t ignore this situation.

You have just 3 choices in this situation – should I keep her, let her go, or wait till I find a replacement? Each of these decisions could depend on factors outside your control.

If the job market is tight and you can’t find a replacement, and all you need is an average employee to keep your operations going, then you keep them till you find a replacement.

If you think they’re a good fit and you believe they can get better, give them time to rectify their attitude and grow.

If you’re certain that they’re not a good fit with your organization and your business can do without them, cut your costs by letting them go.

Managing people is one of the hardest challenges for entrepreneurs and managers, and most often than not it’s the people in the middle who’ll end up being your biggest challenge.

If they’re great, you’ll keep them, and if they’re bad, you’ll let them go. But the employees who are average to below average are the ones who pose the biggest challenge.

Edition: December 2016

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