What Do You Do With Deadwood Employees?

Great employees are the heart and soul of any business, especially a successful one. Their efforts cannot be understated enough. But there are always one or two poor performers or “deadwood employees” – those who contribute little to the company’s success and at times undermine it. And they hang on year after year. They never seem to get fired and amass a laundry list of disciplinary actions with little substantive repercussions. Why is that?

This is an all too common problem and underscores a main challenge in corporate America. For me, the top reason this happens is weak management and their failure to properly address the issue.

What Should You Do?

When a manager is “writing an employee up”, they don’t do it as punishment, they do it because it’s a requirement of management. It’s also a part of progressive discipline intended to identify and correct the actions of an employee when they fail to meet the standards laid out by company policy.

I have little compassion for a manager who is too timid to terminate a problem employee. And because of his own frustration, the manager has compromised himself by using unethical scheduling practices, foul language, or intimidation in the hopes the “problem” will go away on their own. They’re now burdened by their own baggage and don’t want to bring in “HR” to discuss a failing employee for fear of being exposed in the process.

Deadwood employees must go, and quickly. If not, 3 things happen:

  1. Employee morale will suffer (but we both know it’s probably already happening)
  2. Respect for management will decline as well as productivity
  3. The weak manager may be shown the door before the bad employee.

Sometimes you can turn around a poor performer – that’s the goal of every manager. It takes work, dedicated efforts, and patience. But some deadwood employees must be cast aside like a bad apple before it spoils the whole team.

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Author: Steve DiGioia

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