What to do with those low performers

What to do with those low performers

When we measure culture in healthcare organizations, what we are really doing is a deep dive into the values that are being lived and embraced at those organizations. We see certain values take center stage consistently across healthcare organizations, nationwide. 

Accountability is one of the big ones. In healthcare, people really want to work alongside other people who value, live and work with an emphasis on accountability. 

It makes total sense – of course people want highly accountable folks as their coworkers! Accountability makes the work easier and the quality of work higher.

What doesn’t make much sense though are the organizations who don’t do much to inspire accountability in their people.  

Have high standards

How much time do you spend on the “low performers” in your organization? If you are like the majority of leaders, the bulk of your time is spent dealing with a few employees.

Low performers drain a leader’s time and energy. Both of which could be used to further inspire higher performers.

It’s no surprise that low performers bring down those around them. The high performers become frustrated and either leave or conform to the lower standard. They wonder why substandard performance is acceptable.

Then, the high performers lose faith in their leaders.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to organizational cultures that are “rigorous, not ruthless”. 

Ruthless is firing people without giving them a chance to develop.

Rigorous is having high standards that are consistently followed. It prevents high performers from getting dragged down by the low performers. It also allows the low performers to move on to a role or organization that suits them better.

Being rigorous builds accountability.

As an administrator when confronted with a difficult employee issue, I would often reflect on Collins’ questions:

  • “If it were a hiring decision would you hire the person again?”
  • “If the person came to tell you that he or she is leaving to pursue an exciting new opportunity, would you feel disappointed or secretly relieved?”

If you are thinking about that one person you need to deal with, challenge yourself to reflect on why you are waiting. Is the person in a difficult to replace position? Is the situation one you just can’t bear to think about? Chances are the person is in a position over their head and dragging out the inevitable is hurting them as much as the organization. Dealing with the weak link can inspire the rest of the team to work at their highest level. Have the difficult conversation with a poor performer:

  • Share what has been observed.
  • Listen to the employee’s own observations.
  • Show what needs to be done and ensure the person is aware of the consequences.
  • Follow-up and take action by the stated date.

You want to catch the good that is happening as much as possible and coach employees for the occasional wrong. But the reality is some employee problems cannot be solved with any amount of praise or coaching. That’s when you want to tackle the issue for the good of the people you serve, your team and the individual employee.

Be rigorous! Create a culture of accountability!

I want to know, have you ever struggled with what to do with someone you knew was bringing down the team? How did you handle it? 


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