Until they’re out, they’re in

Got someone on your team that you aren’t sure is working out? Sure you do. Or, no doubt you have had this situation at one point or another in your career. We all know the drill when it comes to the steps a manager needs to take to see that the under-performer either improves their performance or can no longer be in that job. I’ll leave it up to you and your HR professional to work through the steps one has to take to meet with the employee, document the discussion and so on. This post is about something else. It’s about the mindset we should have as leaders and managers when confronted with a performance problem – when we are ‘down’ on someone that works for us.

It’s rather common when we are ‘down’ on someone to give up on them. Or, at least to step back and almost avoid that individual. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. We simply lose interest. We don’t interact with the individual as much. We unintentionally let them drift. As their manager we don’t have the same desire to engage with someone we have lost confidence in as we did before their performance slipped.

Here’s where the ‘law of opposites’ comes into play. When we are down on someone, instead of stepping back, we need to ‘lean in’. We need to move toward that person, not away from them. Our instinct will be to pull back. That’s when we have to fight the natural tendency to ignore, and instead pay more attention to the individual. Get closer to them. Spend time with them. Engage, don’t disengage. Invest time in the work relationship. We do this not just to help ‘save them’. We do this because in so doing, we will learn for certain whether this individual should stay or go. Clarity appears. The time we spend with the underperformer will shine a light on the truth. No areas of grey will remain. We’ll know without hesitation that the person in question has made it or must leave the position. And that’s the goal for us as managers – to have faith and confidence in our personnel decisions. Remember, until they’re out, they’re in.

(This article uses gender neutral third person plural ‘they and them’ when referring to an individual)

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