The ‘Quit and Stay’ Syndrome: a business epidemic that’s a silent profit killer

Businesses must be on a constant vigil to spot and eliminate a silent killer of productivity and profits. Like with other impairments, it must be treated using techniques similar to those employed by physicians to stem unhealthy conditions.

The affliction to which I refer is the “Quit and Stay” Syndrome. Basically, it’s when employees stop trying while they coast and scheme to remain undetected.

This scourge manifests itself in many different ways in organizations of all sizes. There is no one simple diagnostic technique to discover the carriers of this malady, but there are symptoms to help identify which strains must be triaged first.

There are many variations of “Quit and Stay.” The most obvious include the “Too Cushy, Too Soon,” where a worker rises quickly in the organization and seems to get the job done. Suddenly, instead of continuing to take on new challenges, he or she allows complacency to set in as the work gets easier with experience and the raises keep coming. The heretofore good producer begins to do the absolute minimum to get by. This type of ailment is the most perplexing and hardest to treat. Sometimes taking out the paddles and shocking these individuals back into reality works best, starting with a good come-to-their-maker conversation.

Then there are the “Hide and Seekers,” who, as the name implies, are the most difficult to identify. They have made doing as little as possible an art form. Most have been around for years, and are practiced at looking busy while nobody quite understands just what they do all day. Although an ankle bracelet to track them might be in order, it may be more practical to administer a few strong doses of accountability and give them a chart so that their productivity can be monitored weekly in order to get them on the road to recovery.

The “World Owes Me a Living” employees are easy to spot. The protocol to make them healthy is to provide therapy in the form of coaching and counseling (aka tough love). If that fails, follow up with surgical precision to remove them from the organization — after you create a paper trail documenting their transgressions. Unfortunately, a “watch and wait” strategy frequently used in medicine usually doesn’t work in business.

Much like a constant low-grade fever, the “It’s Not My Job” disorder manifests itself with different symptoms. Not being a team player is one, and disappearing when there is extra work to be done is another. The treatment for this is not much different than the other maladies, except that if it goes undetected or isn’t treated properly it can spread.

Alas, there are no vaccines to prevent poor performance, but with vigilant supervision these infirmities exhibited by the unproductive can be diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately. It does, however, require management practitioners who are disciplined and know what medicines to use to prevent an epidemic.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, with $20,000. During a 16-year span as CEO, he grew the company to 1,000 stores worldwide with sales of $5 billion.