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Submitted by jndile on


I will keep it concise; I will inherit a direct that grossly underperforms but I can not terminate the direct because of my organization’s procedures.  Also, the individual is strongly protected by a union.  I have observed the individual’s behavior for a number of years and the individual’s performance has not improved in that time.  Here are the details, the way I see it:

  • The individual’s position is obsolete (Administration);
    • I / my team can do requested tasks faster and more accurate (the first time) or use Siri, for setting meetings and reminders
  • The individual has been passed from office to office for poor performance; and
  • The individual lacks the competence, cannot learn the competence to perform in today’s market, and lacks the drive for success.

Because of the above: the individual constantly disrupts meetings/conversations to gain immediate attention; discusses personal feelings loud for all to hear; and runs to HR when ignored, decrying “hostile workplace.”

My history and perspective is that I have worked many places around the globe, government and private industry, and from country to country the behavior is the same.  Some people get the work done, others sit there and just collect a paycheck.

I am just so frustrated that this individual will collect up to half-a-million dollars before retirement, for doing nothing!  So many good and competent young people are out there in the employment-pool that will not have a change to learn and grow in this industry.  Grow meaning that this position is an excellent starter position, with a benefit of a free collegiate education if you desire it and a chance to learn a fascinating industry.

I know it is up to myself to change my beliefs and behavior, so I can lead the other team members effectively.  So, I am asking the forum for any advice on how to handle this situation and come to some understanding of how to work with this individual in the foreseeable future?

Thank you, sorry I guess it was not that concise.


shellandflame's picture

I see this going one of two ways: either work to fire this employee or grow them.

If you choose to remove the employee, you need to lay out, in writing, clear tasks with measureable objectives and due dates.  Conduct the O3s with them, ensuring to mark progress to these tasks.  As the meet or fail each, make sure they are recorded in their personnel file/ evaluation form.  The employee will either have to step up or be left behind.  If they complain to HR, you can show records where they agreed to do a certain task by a certain date but failed.  There is no harrasment, its just they either did the job or didn't.

You could also choose to work with the employee.  Find out what they are good at within their purview.  Work on growing those competencies so they can be productive.  If there is something they need to do but have issues with, find out how to help them learn to do it better.  It sounds like no one has ever treated this employee as an asset and just handed a bad penny around.  If you become this person's champion, you could have a real superstar as you're the only one who ever believed in them.

The benefit of using the growth route instead of the fire only is that you can still give them tasks and deadlines, but they are tied to growth.  If they fail to grow, you can still record these as misses for end of the year evaluation.  Trying to grow them could be much more of a win/win for the employee and the organization.