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How to Prevent Minimal Employees from Destroying Your Business

Oct 18, 2007
You know who they are. They know who they are.

You know you should fire them but you just don't get around to it and so you keep them on. Month after month. Year after year.

In front of you they spout the company line. It's all rah-rah and go team and let's make it happen yesterday. It's all about us and our company. But they say it with a sarcastic smile that you can read like a book but you let it go.

You make excuses for them but you know deep down those are your excuses. You keep them by rationalizing they work cheaper and you will have to replace them and their replacements will probably be just as bad. Or worse. Better the devil you know, right?

Of course in the back of your mind there is also the fear they will take you to the labor commission. You are pretty sure they will and you've already heard rumors about where your company is vulnerable and how they can get you in your weak spot. Intimidation is definitely part of their strategy.

You've got more important things on your plate so you rationalize it away. You rationalize that their doom and gloom on any company improvements are simply misguided enthusiasm. Right. Like non-dairy creamer you know better but you do it anyway. By default and with your consent, the minimal employee sets your agenda for you.

You let them get away with it because the minimal employee is an expert at feeding into all your insecurities and weaknesses. They probably know you better than you know yourself but unfortunately they use this knowledge against you.

They know how to pull your string and will be against any changes in the status quo as they could be next. They go through all this because it's easier than looking for a new job. Besides, it's what they do.

If it were just you and them it might be all right. But no company lives in a vacuum.

Minimal employees subtly poison your work environment every chance they get. To you it's all smiles but to coworkers it's a constant series of negatives and morale busters. They are quick to point out all the faults in others but become defensive about their own faults.

The problem is it doesn't stop there. It spreads throughout your company and to your vendors and (gasp!) to your clients and customers. A rotten apple soon spoils the whole box.

Besides, why should they care if your company is profitable? It's not their company.

But they won't go voluntarily. It's not easy finding a boss like you that will let them get by without being accountable and productive. A good boss like that is hard to find. They know you can get rid of them but they also know you are not really focused on your company so at least they will get by while the getting is good.

What to do? Well, you can try to counsel or rehab them. You can write them up and go through a series of reviews. But counseling won't work because it took them lifetime to develop their minimal personality and a bad review certainly won't change that. A bad review to them is simply another piece of paper.

The only cure is to get rid of them.

That's probably what you did not want to hear as you were hoping for some sort of slick management trick to let you off your precarious hook. Sorry. If you have been a weak manager all along you most likely have been a minimal manager as well so you have put yourself into a management bind. Minimal employees understand this very well. Probably better than you do.

What to do? First check your Employee Manual to see what policies and procedures you have in place for dealing with the minimal employee. If you don't have a manual or your manual is minimal itself, then you may need to consider other measures. And put an Employee Manual on your to-do list.

You immediately begin documenting your reasons for firing your minimal employee because that is what you might have to do. Remember they have no personal pride so you cannot shame them into quitting.

You can 'reorganize' and eliminate their position. In California employees can be let go without much fuss for reorganization or if the employee no longer has the skills required to do the job. It's messy, but it works and keeps you away from the Labor Board.

You have to play hardball because minimal people sure do. If it's too messy to reorganize, simply reduce their hours. If they are fulltime, make them part time. Make sure you do your homework and just don't single them out from all your other employees with the same classification. Then they can say it's discrimination. Unless you can document they are a minimal employee. Which of course you can, no?

Globally, you need to rate each employee: keepers, maybes, and goners. The idea is to cycle out the goners and bring in keepers. Each year you should be cycling out your minimal employees and replacing them with better employees. Unless you are lazy.

But if you are just remember that minimal employees hurt morale, stunt growth and every day cost your company money. From the management perspective it's only a matter of when and how to let them go.

So go ahead, do yourself a favor and get rid of them.
About the Author
Jack D. Deal is the owner of Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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