In our previous blog we discussed the importance of getting the right people on your team – but what should you do if you aren’t happy with your existing team members? You’ve been working with them for a while and noticed they are underperforming, disengaged or draining your resources (or all three!).

Whether you refer to them as deadwood, a toxic employee, or just ‘another problem to deal with’ there are usually a few identifying factors that set them apart from the rest of the team.

They routinely do the absolute minimum to get by, blame others or the ‘system’ when things go wrong, or might have simply ‘retired on the job’. They consistently suck energy from the rest of the team, drain motivation, and complain about everything! Others regard them as someone who is generally ignored – their opinions are never solicited and a lot of time is spent hoping they will just go away.

They feel they don’t need to do anything in particular to stay in their role, and see no correlation between performance and job security.

Regardless of whether it’s a glaringly obvious problem, or just little gripe that won’t go away, it’s affecting the business.

Sound familiar?

The vast majority of UK businesses identify disengaged employees as one of their top three greatest threats, but very few will do anything about it. Afterall it’s much easier not to, right?

Avoiding the conflict, anxiety and awkwardness might sound easier in the short-term but in the long-run this may have catastrophic effects for the whole business. One deadwood employee may end up costing the business a lot more than a salary. Including:

  • Loss of business opportunities

  • Lower productivity, working below full capacity

In a small business every employee matters. In a team of 5, each individual makes up 20% of your business. One unproductive employee means that 20% of your business is missing, which could be holding you back from business growth!

  • Demotivating the rest of the team (“If they can get away with doing the minimum, so can I”)

  • Loss of valuable team members (If they don’t leave, I will!”)

  • Questioning the judgement and integrity of the business owner

So what can you do about it?

The first step is to identify exactly why they feel disengaged. Not all deadwood employees are a lost cause and figuring out the root of the problem can unveil very simple solutions. Maybe they feel a sense of stagnation – there is a lack of recognition or growth opportunity no matter what they do. Perhaps they just no longer enjoy what they do but are scared to leave or switch career paths. They might lack up-to-date training, making them feel left behind and overwhelmed by the changing environment.

These are all problems that can be overcome through clear communication. Hold a meeting to discuss your concerns, expectations and how to reignite the excitement again. Discuss promotions, offer regular feedback and provide training – a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) can save you here. Establish a clear growth path and direction, and both the business and the individual will benefit.

On the other hand, it may be that a lacklustre problem is the result of a poor work ethic, or the individual just doesn’t fit with your office culture. They may feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to their job; either as a result of their qualifications and previous accomplishments, or the protection offered by their employee rights. In which case, no matter what you do there isn’t much that will motivate them! In this worse case scenario you will need solid processes to deal with it in a professional way.

Firing an employee based on gross misconduct is a complex procedure and must be perfectly executed. Documenting every step you have taken to help the employee live up to your expectations is important. Include everything from spoken and written warnings, additional training, missed deadlines, customer complaints and anything else that builds your case – and then request an expert opinion.

If you don’t want to do it yourself we’re here for you. We can help manage the process and make sure it’s done the right way. We’ll ensure the correct HR procedures are followed, and that it’s as pain free as possible for you, your team, and the employee in question. If you need us, give us a call on: 01243 717693