Monday, November 21, 2011

Lose the Weight! An Argument for Firing Bad Employees

I’ve always been a big believer that it is far better for a company to have a small team of great employees than to have a large team of mediocre ones.  In order for a tree to continue to grow healthy and strong, one must cut off the dead or dying branches.  Even if your team is a mixed variety of every type of employee, from fantastic to awful, you can’t assume the good ones will be able to bring the bad ones up to their level.  Like an anchor, negativity will in almost all circumstances weigh down the positive, which slows productivity and innovation.  It’s the old adage of one bad apple.  Here’s a great blog on this very concept and how it can adversely affect your business: http://www.stickyminds.com/sitewide.asp?ObjectId=6937&Function=edetail&ObjectType=

Years ago I used to teach children’s weekend art classes, and it always amazed me how one or two kids could ruin an entire classroom. Regardless of the enthusiasm and interest of the rest of the participants, the troublemakers managed to sway everyone to their side.  So if you think your company isn’t being harmed by your minority of naysayers, lazy bums, and schemers, think again.

I won’t name names, but there is a very well-known, highly successful hair salon in New York City where the salon owner has only two questions she asks candidates during a job interview. The first is: are you married? If the answer is no, she then asks, are you in a long-term committed relationship? If the answer is again no, the candidate does not get hired. 

While this method of hiring can potentially take a company down the slippery slope of discrimination, I think she is onto something here, and I think (and I know she knows this to be true) this is largely why her salon, in a city saturated with high-end hair salons, is so incredibly successful.  Creating and maintaining a dependable team of stable, committed people is more than half the battle in establishing a sustainable, dependable company.  While there are plenty of sound and balanced unmarried people, and far more unbalanced, wacky married people, finding employees that demonstrate loyalty and the ability to separate their personal and professional life is vital.  As an independent consultant to small businesses, I work with one company where this example has been quite vivid over the years.  The team members who tend to act less professional, damage the company’s reputation and have a negative attitude to boot are the ones whose personal lives are in constant disarray.  The team members who display competence and consistency are those who benefit from a constant foundation of stability in their home environment.  Even when a crisis arises in the workplace, they have an immediate method of coping. They handle difficulties with ease in a way those who are already hanging on by a thread don’t. 

Additionally the ones who are perpetually teetering on the edge demand the time and energy of those who aren’t; which piles additional tasks on your great employees and creates a distraction from work that could actually propel the company forward rather than simply fix a problem. 

In this economy you can’t afford to have your brand tarnished by unreliability, negativity, and instability.  The world is unstable enough, and consumers are on the lookout for companies that will provide a dependable product or service, along with a positive experience.  Negative employees cannot manufacture that positive experience.  Our workforce understands that the current climate requires a larger workload on fewer people.  But isn’t it better for your team to be comprised of great employees who can readily handle the challenges, rather than people who are going to derail your progress?

Read businessweek.com’s great article on three types of people to fire immediately to learn more: