Why You Must Be Unreasonable with Low-Producing Staff Members


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Hey there, it’s Greg Winteregg, and today, I want to talk to you about a crucial aspect of leadership – dealing with low-producing staff members. As an owner, executive, or manager, it’s essential to be firm when you have team members who consistently fall short of their responsibilities. In this blog post, I’ll share my insights on why being unreasonable in such situations is not only beneficial but often necessary for the success of your business.

Why Demanding Excellence is a Must

When you have a staff member who consistently fails to meet their job expectations, it’s easy to empathize with their excuses. Life happens, right? They might have personal issues, health problems, or transportation challenges. However, as the owner or executive, you have to keep the bigger picture in mind. Your end goal is to produce results, and to do that, you need everyone on your team to pull their weight.

Think of it this way: when you’re paying someone to do a job, you’re essentially entering into a mutual agreement. They agree to perform their tasks in exchange for their salary, and you agree to provide them with the opportunity to do so. If one party fails to uphold their end of the deal, it disrupts the entire system. A low-producing staff member not only puts their own job in danger but also puts extra pressure on their colleagues, who have to pick up the slack.

Learning from My Football Experience

Let me share a personal story that might resonate with you. During my freshman year of high school football, I found myself in a situation where I had to step up and deliver results, just like in the business world. I was playing cornerback, and there was a rainy game day. The field was a muddy mess, and as I covered a receiver, I slipped and allowed the opponent to make a critical catch right in front of the coach.

The coach was tough. He got right in my face and demanded excellence. He said, “You figure out how to stand up, or I’m going to find somebody who can!” That moment served as a turning point for me. I never fell down again, and my man never caught another ball. The lesson here is clear: sometimes, you have to be tough to get the best out of your team.

Leading by Example

Now, let’s return to the business context. I once had a staff member who showed up to work in a sorry state – hungover, uniform inside-out and backwards, and looking like they hadn’t seen a mirror that day. When I confronted them about it, they gave me a laundry list of excuses – fights, boyfriend issues, you name it. But I didn’t accept those excuses.

I firmly told them to either go home and get ready to work or expect consequences. The result? They never showed up in that state again. Being firm in such situations isn’t about being heartless; it’s about setting expectations and holding your team accountable. When you let low productivity slide, you’re essentially rewarding non-production, which is detrimental to both your bottom line and team morale.

The Domino Effect of Non-Production

Think of your team as a well-oiled machine. Each member has their specific role and responsibilities. If one person isn’t doing their job, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects everyone downstream. A has to do their job so that B can do theirs, and so on. When A falls short, B has to step in, which not only leads to inefficiency but also leads to frustration among team members.

Consider the financial aspect too. You’re paying A to do a particular job, and if they can’t fulfill that role, you end up paying both A and B to do it. This isn’t just poor management; it’s financially unsustainable. Your profit and loss statement will bear the brunt of such inefficiencies, and it can ultimately impact your company’s viability.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Now, I’m not saying that you should be completely inflexible. Every new hire deserves a grace period to get acclimated to their role. Typically, a 90-day probationary period is common, but some businesses prefer to see results within the first few weeks. It’s essential to communicate your expectations clearly and give feedback along the way. If a staff member is showing progress, be patient and allow them to grow into their role.

However, if after a reasonable amount of time, you see no improvement or a pattern of non-production, it’s time to act decisively. Keeping someone on your team who consistently fails to meet expectations isn’t doing them or your business any favors. It’s essential to be unreasonable when it comes to productivity and results.

Respect and Trust

Your team is watching your every move as a leader. If they see that you tolerate low productivity, it sends a message that mediocrity is acceptable. This can lead to a toxic workplace culture where high-performing staff members become pessimistic and leave, leaving you with an underperforming team.

On the flip side, when you hold everyone to the same high standard, it fosters a culture of excellence. Your top performers will appreciate your commitment to maintaining high expectations, and it will motivate others to step up their game. This kind of leadership builds trust and respect among your team members, as they know that everyone is held accountable.

Balancing Empathy and Toughness

I want to emphasize that being unreasonable about productivity doesn’t mean you should be heartless or dismissive of your team’s challenges. Life can throw curveballs at anyone, and as a leader, it’s crucial to strike a balance between empathy and toughness.

If a staff member faces a genuine crisis or is dealing with personal issues, it’s essential to offer support and understanding. However, this support should come with a clear understanding that it’s temporary and that the expectation remains for them to meet their job requirements once they’ve overcome their challenges.

The Bottom Line: Your Business Depends on It

In the grand scheme of things, being soft on low production can have severe consequences for your business. You’re not just risking your profitability; you’re also affecting the livelihoods of your team members, your own financial stability, and potentially your retirement plans. Your decisions as an owner or executive can impact where your children go to school and the quality of life you can provide for your family.

In conclusion, being unreasonable with low-producing staff members is not only necessary but also a hallmark of effective leadership. It’s about setting clear expectations, holding everyone accountable, and fostering a culture of excellence within your organization. Remember, you’re not just paying someone for a job; you’re paying for results. So, don’t be afraid to show off your harsh boss side when the end result is at stake.

How We Can Help

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About Greg Wintereg

Greg founded Matterhorn Business Development to assist small business owners in growing their businesses and increasing profitability at the same time.
He was an internationally recognized lecturer, sales trainer, and management consultant who spent close to 30 years working with professionals and small business owners across the US and Canada.
In 2019, he authored his book “Fun at Work.”