Focus on Current Thinking: Low Performers Can Cripple an Organization


Institutions such as hospitals must be on the lookout for employees whose poor attitude can undermine the morale of others-and find ways to improve the behavior of these low performers.

Institutions such as hospitals must be on the lookout for employees whose poor attitude can undermine the morale of others—and find ways to improve the behavior of these low performers.

Many hospitals have adopted the principles of Quint Studer, a retired hospital executive who had tremendous success in making money-losing hospitals profitable. One hallmark of the institutions he led is high employee job satisfaction, which translates to happier patients and a better bottom line for the hospital.

In his book Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top, Studer describes a management approach that he calls evidence-based leadership. Just as health care providers use evidence-based medicine in treating patients, managers should use evidence-based leadership in leading employees. Results That Last is filled with key principles that have been proven to work in hospitals across the country. One of these involves dealing with the problem of low-performing employees.

All of us have experienced a workplace situation in which an employee just does not do their job. Such employees seem to be lazy and uninterested in performing at a high level. Many times, they openly express a negative perspective on the workplace and management to their colleagues. If this behavior is not addressed, all the other employees have to work harder to complete daily activities, workplace morale suffers, and, at some point, employees begin to seek employment elsewhere.

Studer describes these low performers as employees whose work is inconsistent and who react negatively to change in the workplace, preventing an organization from attending to the needs of its customers and achieving its goals. In order for any department or unit to move forward, the problems posed by low performers need to be addressed.

The first task for a manager is to identify the low performers in the workplace. Studer describes them as individuals who blame others for their problems and who are especially vocal in their complaints about management. They also exhibit passive aggressive behavior and have little commitment to their work unit and to fellow employees.

After determining who the low performers are, the manager should meet individually with each one. During these meetings, it is important to clearly articulate the problem behavior, identify specific instances when it was demonstrated, and describe proper ways to behave in these situations. Then the manager needs to praise these employees when they demonstrate appropriate behavior and provide feedback when the employees fall back into their former habits.

If low performers are not identified and counseled, their behavior can cripple the entire organization. The negativity they create grows more difficult to address over time and will ultimately drive your best employees away, damaging your bottom line. This is why low performers pose a problem that needs to be addressed as early as possible.

Have your experiences demonstrated this principle to be true? I would appreciate learning from you.

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