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What Shall I Do With a Marginal Employee? — 

Meeting reasonable an appropriate expectations is clearly an important requirement for all employees. Some employees are quite capable of meeting such expectations while others simply are not.

Prior to writing off an employee as someone who can't do the job, it’s essential that the employee's direct supervisor's ability to manage be carefully evaluated. Keep in mind that a manager/supervisor is responsible for hiring, training, coaching, mentoring and directing the work of his/her direct reports. The first question we ask when an employee has been tagged as a "bad employee" is whether the supervisor of that employee is doing his/her job. In many cases the answer is an emphatic "no". When this is the case, the starting point for dealing with the employee's performance issues is with the supervisor.

But for the sake of this article, we will assume that the supervisor is performing effectively. And for the sake of discussion only, the employee has been given the proper training, has had expectations clearly communicated to him/her, has been made aware of performance problems and has been properly mentored to correct those deficiencies. When this has happened and the employee's performance continues to fall below those reasonable expectations, it’s time to take appropriate measures to remove that person from the job they currently hold.

A marginal employee that has been hired into a position for which they are not well suited will almost never be able to make the transition to meeting defined expectations consistently. Perhaps the most important issue in business today is the inability of companies to match people to jobs. The degree to which employees are placed into jobs they are not cut out for is staggering.

This begs the question of whether marginal employees that companies have invested thousands of dollars into in terms of hiring, training and managing should be retained when ongoing performance remains below expected standards should be retained. In many cases, these employees are not going to make an abrupt turnaround and perform up to expectations. So, continuing to pour more money into these marginal employees who have displayed a reluctance or even resistance to upgrade their performance is keeping the company from achieving its own objectives. Having employees who perform at high levels is a must to optimize company performance and results.

In rare cases, an employee who has not been performing up to expectations will somehow move toward meeting expectations and might even end up doing so on a consistent basis. However, when it’s clear the employee is not going to succeed in his/her current job, it’s important that action be taken as quickly as possible. But it must be done in a manner that sends an appropriate message to other employees and, of course, according to all rules and regulations governing employee performance and possible dismissal.

The message that employees will be given the opportunity to correct their performance deficiencies through careful mentoring and coaching and an emphasis on meeting expectations is important as is the message that there are consequences for not performing at an acceptable level.

When careful management fails to produce the desired results, the employee could be removed from their current job in a caring, respectful and professional manner. By handling marginal employees correctly, other employees realize that the company is interested in having people perform, but will assist them up to a reasonable point if they are struggling to meet expectations. It also tells other employees that the company is not going to let marginal employees affect those around them or the company’s performance.

If your company is not dealing effectively with employees who aren't meeting expectations, it is time to start. To ignore the problem erodes confidence in management by employees who are performing effectively and it ultimately impacts the bottom line.


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