You always have a mix of stars and geniuses you know you can count on when the heat is on, the solid core that does the job and underachievers who are pulling everyone down.

There are many reasons how you got there: the hiring process was wrong, the company culture changed and some people stayed in past or managers avoided the conflict too much.

The reasons and the blame are not important. The big issue is that it you don’t act, you are pulling your organization, your people and yourself in  real danger.

Here are 10 reasons why letting underachievers roam too free in the organization can hurt you in short and long-term

1. They lower the standard of performance of EVERYBODY in the company

The work we do is complicated and most things require involvement of many people.

The quality of the work is then determined by the ability of the weakest link in the system.

So, your creative copy can be brilliant, but the audio producer is deaf. The end result is subpar promo.

The common solution is to delegate it the good audio producer.  However, then you have another problem…

2. You overwork the good workers to compensate for the underachievers output

The work still needs to get done. And when you delegate the work, especially the more demanding work, you give the tasks to those who will do a good job.

When I need a demo for a new promotion, and I need it now, I will always give it to the people I know can do it.

Even if it is a game for weekend, my morning show will write and voice it, and their audio producer will mix it.

My weekend DJ will be happy to get everything done (and probably mess up in execution). That other audio producer is in the meanwhile doing nothing.

And people start talking about what is fair and what is not. Which leads to…

3.It destroys the company culture

Company culture is the biggest differentiation between competing companies.

It is the sum of the values and behaviors in your company – not what we say in some mission statements, but what we actually DO.

People buy in the culture that fits their worldview.

The right culture can be a great magnet for the talent. People want to work in the environment where good behaviors are promoted, where they feel appreciated and their work has value.

When consciously harboring the underachievers you promote a culture that says – what you do is not important. You are not important.

Which leads to…

4. Good employees feel ignored

Instead of working with your best people in getting better, you always need to fix things after the underachievers.

When you read in the news about the government subsidizing businesses with no future using your tax money you feel angry. But you are doing the same thing in your company.

Extra training is done. They are send to conferences and seminars to get better.

You can’t send the good ones because somebody needs to do the work.

So, why would someone do extra, or even what was considered to be a standard before.

5. It helps excuses thrive

Salaries are hard to change. For the good or bad. There is a big chance that your underachievers are not the worst paid in the company, while not pulling their share.

Other people start to ask themselves and their colleagues why should they care.

Excuses are poison, and your are giving your team a gasoline and a match to start a fire.


6. You start lowering the expectations from your team

To balance everything you start lowering the demands and overall expectations in the organization.

What was normal before – now is a myth – “we used to do it”.

Everybody is avoiding conflict and you know that pushing is useless. So you start demanding less and making more and more  compromises.

In Croatia we have a saying that loosely translates into – “you swing with what you have “, and thinking like that creeps into the organization.

Status quo becomes the reason to keep the status quo.

7. Moral goes down

People need challenges to feel accomplishment.

The goals you set should take some effort to do. There is this sweet spot between too easy and impossible.

So when you lower the demands and standards – for your regular employees  everything becomes too easy and repetitive. No challenge means no joy.

Creative people need to be pushed to thrive. And because of underachievers you are not pushing.

8. Innovation dies

Good people solve problems. Bad people are cause of them.

With moral down and everything being so complicated nothing new ever gets done. In the worst case scenario you don’t even try anything new.

For me the eye opening event was hiring a new designer on one of my projects. The guy before was both blind and complicated (the peak achievement was creating a photo for Facebook where the station logo was reflected in the eye of Justin Bieber).

The woman who replaced him was complete opposite. Instead of execution and details  we talked ideas. Then we started doing more videos and visuals.

With a change of just one person, and with the strategy, execution plan and everybody else being the same – the output of content for social media tripled.

9. Too much focus on internal issues equals lower ratings and less revenue

The competition is not sleeping. The world is changing.

And while you are working on internal issues the world moved on.

There is a new morning show in your market, the agency people start talking about the podcasts and your best talent just left for a digital TV station.

You have no new products and revenue is down. Good luck in attracting the talent now.

10. Avoiding conflict makes you a bad person

By keeping your eyes closed you are doing nobody a favor.

Everyone is getting older and change is becoming harder and harder. The more time you invest in a relationship the worse the breakup is. So, the sooner you act, better for everyone.

If someone is underachieving in one position (or organization) doesn’t mean they are bad. On a different job, with another manager or in a different company those people could flourish.

As a manager, by not acting because you are avoiding conflict you are wasting everyone’s lives.


It can end in the good way

When dealing with underachievers you need to take in the consideration few things:

  • It might be the wrong position
  • The direct manager is not doing the good job
  • Honest feedback is crucial


Before letting people go try your best to make it work. Maybe another role in the company works better. Or change in the organization with better (or just different manager) can get you better results.

But the crucial thing is – be honest.

And when letting go – be generous and again honest. The people who are leaving have friends in your organization and those who stay are often more connected with those who are leaving than you.

The way you treat people in the low times – it shows something about your culture (and culture is important).

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