What does the recession give you? Apart from stress and anxiety, perhaps an excellent time to promote the cream – and to cut the (metaphorical) fat? Now I’m aware that I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here – and this isn’t the most sensitive time to talk about redundancies – but if there is an issue here, well … it might be food for thought.

We all know one type of people: the ones who are really good at their jobs, support and empower colleagues, rise to challenges, don’t grumble, get on with it and deliver. Let’s call them “the cream” – they’re your real talent.

We also all know another type of people. The ones who only do the minimum to get by, cause hassle, don’t – or won’t – support others, obstruct, and basically come to work solely to get paid. Let’s call them loafers: if your talent are “the cream”, your loafers are the whey – the skimmed milk that provides no nutrition and won’t develop into ‘live culture’ not matter how long you leave it near a radiator.

Of course, there are many others in between: employees who are struggling to various degrees in their jobs, need training, would benefit from more senior support. But they have potential and at least they are trying – and they respond to support and help. Let’s call them the “committed employees”.  If we’re bright, we know how to help and support here, so we can get on with it. (*)

(* Although you might want to read the next post before you self-assess yourself as ‘bright’.)

So why not promote the cream, and just siphon off the rest? Surely even the most hesitant manager currently has an economic environment that legitimises getting rid of the dead weight?

In many organisations, employers believe it is actually more hassle to put their eternal underperformers through a proper “poor performance process” than to simply leave “the loafers” alone and let them stagnate. Surely the argument should be “why put up with poor performance, rather than challenge it”?  I’ve read many an HR article and blog, and I’m aware that item 2 on KnowHr’s 10 Ways to Know When It’s Time to Get Out of HR is “You actually look forward to firing someone”, but … if people are really not performing, then why not just remove them?

Most employees do not accept jobs with the attitude “I hate my job, and I do not want to perform”.  There are many understandable and valid reasons why people can sometimes struggle in positions or with certain tasks.  Yet many organisations keep other employees who are not performing, are not “responding to treatment”, and who have out-stayed their welcome. These organisations often spend huge amounts of time and money on performance management systems, and know who the bottom 10% of their staff are: so why hold on to them, if they can not be helped?

The recession provides a “perfect storm” in which we can not only identify the bottom 10%, but do something about it. So what is stopping you?

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