You may have tolerated dissension in the past, but in the current economic climate, keeping employees who don’t share your agenda is dangerous, if not impossible, says Samuel J. Lucci III, the founder and CEO of Partners Through People.
“These types of people are always a problem, but in a recession, their negative effect is devastating,” adds Lucci.
When times are tough, executives need the cooperation of the entire company for their decisions to succeed. If your employees aren’t on board with those decisions, your message is sabotaged.
“If you don’t address this problem quickly, it will eat away at the foundation of your business,” says Lucci. “You have to be careful, because recessions have a way of weakening companies, and you could end up in a position where you never fully recover. If you lose market share, you may never get it back.”
Smart Business spoke with Lucci to find out how to identify and eliminate the profit-killing employees in your company and how to avoid hiring others.
How do you identify profit-killing employees?
You can identify profit-killing employees by being observant. The best way to do this is not to ask someone else. Don’t ask your managers, if you have mid-level managers. This is one time when you want to know for sure. And, don’t listen to what these employees are saying — watch what they do. Get out of your office and move about. You really have to get down in the ranks.
This is not a time to rely on someone else’s evaluation, unless you absolutely have to. And if you do, you should observe the people who are doing the observing, because in times like these, people get negative. There are all kinds of emotions banging around and objectivity tends to go away. If I’m your supervisor, and I don’t like you, that can jade what I’m going to report. The top person needs to be above that so they can see for themselves what’s going on.
What do you look for when searching for profit-killing employees?
The general nature of these employees is often what’s commonly referred to as passive-aggressive. They agree to anything. They say ‘yes’ when they really mean ‘no.’ They say ‘yes’ and then do what they want to do.
In a recession, you have to preserve your cash. So you may go to your purchasing agent and say, ‘I want you to cut inventory to the lowest level you can; buy only what you have to.’ And he or she will say, ‘I understand; I’ll do that.’ But then he or she does business as usual. Then, three months later, you’ve got to pay for purchases you didn’t need with cash you don’t have.
Another example is underperforming sales-people. Underperforming salespeople hurt your business at any time, but in a recession it multiplies because cash is king. That just accentuates the problem. It’s hard to make a sale in these times and underperforming salespeople probably won’t make any.
These passive-aggressive salespeople start making excuses instead of keeping themselves positive and being persistent. They give up. And if two-thirds of your sales staff has given up, that can put you in big trouble.
How can you avoid attracting these problem employees?
It’s been my experience that employees give their best performance in the interview, especially salespeople. They know how to conduct themselves in an interview, but that’s not who shows up for work.
You could liken it to courtship in a marriage. When you meet someone of the opposite sex and you want to impress him or her, you’re going to be on your best behavior. Well, after a while they get a chance to see the real you.
To stop attracting and hiring these profit-killing employees, you have to redesign and reconfigure the way you hire. A national statistic says 67 percent of new hires in the U.S are failures. It’s unreal but it’s true.
The only way to really stop that is to get very serious about discerning the attitudes of the people you’re going to bring into the organization. You definitely need expert help with that.
A business owner is not going to get proficient in that because they have to be proficient at running the business. My advice would be: Don’t just do it by yourself. Get some outside, professional help. Human resource people are usually the ones who understand all the logistics and legal and all that, but they aren’t experts at uncovering attitude.
What else can you do?
Try to interview each one of your employees individually and ask for their suggestions. Now, if you have 2,500, it wouldn’t be possible. But if you have a company of 50 to 100, it’s possible.
Begin the discussion, treat them with dignity, and see what they have to say. You will begin to see who wants to cooperate and who doesn’t. Then, when you find the ones who want to cooperate, you ask for their help. So you are actually enlisting more people to work with this problem.
Keeping negative problem employees demoralizes the good employees. Sometimes it gets so bad that the good people leave. Good people can always find a job somewhere, but that leaves your company with the worst of the worst.
SAMUEL J. LUCCI III is the founder and CEO of Partners Through People. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 457-2500.