Hiring Wisdom: 3 Reasons Mediocrity in the Workplace Is Tolerated

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There is one common management failing that causes businesses to stagnate and even fail. It’s the practice of tolerating mediocre performers.

It’s not the dishonest or undependable people who keep your business from excelling. No, we’re smart enough to cut our losses and fire those losers fast. It’s the mediocre, just-doing-enough-to-get-by people who keep us from building an exceptional, winning team that outperforms the competition.

Here are three of the most common reasons mediocrity is tolerated: 

  1. “I don’t have time to hire and train a new person.” The convenience of mediocrity trumps the inconvenience of change.
  2. “We will have to pay unemployment” or “They might sue us.” No one stops to think about the long-term costs of substandard performance versus the limited-time payment of benefits. One way or another, you’re going to pay and the right decision is in favor of the overall quality of your organization.
  3. “Things are going great.” It sometimes happens that, when a company is profitable and growing, the healthy bottom line makes it easy to ignore the underperformers. However, should the economy slump or a competitor leap ahead, the deadweight could be what sinks the ship.

Simple solutions – if you will change

Here are some simple solutions to this problem and they are actually quite easy, but they won’t happen without a willingness to change:

  • Build a bench: Recruit and interview religiously. Commit to interviewing a specific number of applicants each week in order to build a database of high quality people you can call on when needed.
  • Raise the bar: Kick your hiring standards up a notch and don’t settle for less. Screen in applicants with a record of successful achievements and a can-do, positive attitude.
  • Hold yourself accountable: Make sure you are not part of the problem.
  • Hold your people accountable: Spell out what it takes to be a successful team member and make sure everyone knows exactly what’s expected.

Of course, it’s important to exhaust all remedies for improving a mediocre player’s performance (additional training, performance reviews, warnings, etc.). However, if these measures don’t get the person up to speed, it won’t come as a surprise when you show them the door.

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Want to make 2014 a banner year? Resolve to get rid of the slackers and watch employee morale and profits soar.

This was originally published in the October 2013 Humetrics Hiring Hints newsletter.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at mkleiman@humetrics.com.

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