How many of your staff have “quit”, but keep coming in anyway—and what are you doing about it?

How many of your staff have “quit”, but keep coming in anyway—and what are you doing about it?

How many of your staff have “quit”, but keep coming in anyway—and what are you doing about it?

Are your staff simply biding time or taking up space? Donald Cooper breaks down the concept of workplace “bad apples” and offers all the tricks and tips of how to both deal with them and get on with attracting the right people.

Whether your business is large or small, not having the right people in every position carries a huge cost in lost business, inefficiency, frustration, and missed opportunity. A recent survey of thousands of North American employees shows that 25 per cent of those questioned admitted that the only reason they show up at work is for their paycheck. They have absolutely no interest in their job, the customers, the rest of the team, or the bottom line.

We’ve all heard the old expression that “one bad apple can spoil the bunch.” Well, what about 25 per cent bad apples? What are they doing to your business?

You might think that number is extraordinarily high, but in his latest book Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, says that in his experience about 20 per cent of employees in any company are dragging the business down and need to be dealt with. So, whether the actual number is 20 or 25 per cent, it’s a big problem.

The first question here is how many of those people are just deadbeats and how many of them are working in businesses that are so badly run that they’d destroy anyone’s soul? These are the businesses that are physically, emotionally, or financially unhealthy places to be. Businesses where the good people leave and only the deadbeats are left. So, be honest—is your business a deadbeat magnet? Have you, for whatever reason, created an unhealthy business environment in which only people who don’t care can survive?


“Commit to becoming the best business to work for in your industry, in your area. It’s tough to be a world-class business without being a world-class employer.”


Another possibility is that in a tight labour market you’ve hired people who have no chance of success. You’ve settled for second or third best, and it’s killing you. So, you give up and tell yourself, “You just can’t find good people any more!” But the truth is that even in a tight labour market, the best people have to work for somebody, but you have to deserve them.

Is your business such a great place to work that the best people in your industry regularly come to you with resume in hand, looking for career opportunities? If not, why not? Where are they working now, and why?

Rather than wasting your energy complaining that you can’t find good people any more, take two pieces of paper and 40 minutes of your time to sit down with some of the best minds and hearts in your business and honestly answer these two simple questions:

  1. What kind of business do the best people in our industry want to work for? Describe in point form how it would recruit, hire, train, pay, reward, thank, celebrate, mentor, and grow its people.
  2. What must we do to become that kind of business that we just described in the first question? What must we fix, create, or stop doing?

Commit to becoming the best business to work for in your industry, in your area. It’s tough to be a world-class business without being a world-class employer.

A third possibility is that your current hiring process is not effectively screening out deadbeats or poor performers. Are you looking for the right people? Do you have a clear understanding of the type of people you need to deliver your customer promise, achieve your profit commitments and grow the business? Are you looking for talent or just looking for bodies?

Do you know where to look for these people? Do you have an interview process that works? Do you ever hire after just one interview? Hiring someone after one interview is like asking someone to marry you on the first date. You don’t know enough about them yet.

Do you have some of your best people re-interview candidates? Do you test candidates in any way? Do you have clear standards of performance, appearance and behavior that you have job prospects commit to before you hire them?  Do you always check references, asking specific questions to get specific answers?

Do you get your new team members off to the right start? Do you have a “Welcome to Our Team” package, including your company history, company values, staff rules, awards won, differences you’ve made in the community or the planet? Do you give them something to be proud of from day one? Do you continually train and develop your staff to be better at what they do, or to take on new responsibilities?

Other questions to consider are: Have you created an environment that acknowledges, rewards and celebrates individual and team performance? How about a simple “thank you” every day, or are you too busy for that?

Even if you do all of this, you will still have some team members who just don’t perform. They’re dragging you down and you need to deal with them. Here are five steps to help:

  1. Make sure that non-performers are clear about what’s expected of them.
  2. Determine if they’re in the right job for them. Often, just by getting problem staff in a job that’s better suited to their skills or personality, they become stars.
  3. Make sure that they have the skills, information, tools, resources, and empowerment to do the job they’ve been given.
  4. Make sure that some personal challenge in their life is not causing them to be temporarily off their game. How can you support them and help them with this? If the challenge they face is related to something like gambling or drug addiction, they’re probably not rescuable.
  5. Agree on and document a specific date by when they will be performing as required. Monitor their performance, then follow up on the agreed date. If they aren’t performing as required at that point, it’s probably time to invite them to make an alternate career decision.

So, who’s not performing in your business? Who’s driving away customers, costing you money, or upsetting the team? Who can be rescued and who needs to be dealt with? Make a list, create an action plan and get on with it.


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