The other day I was trimming the landscape of several plants that had outgrown their space when my wife asked me, "Why are you cutting down that plant? It looks nice and the blossoms have a sweet scent. Can't we keep it?"
It was a ginger plant, and yes it was pretty and did smell nice - but it had also over grown its designated space. Slowly spreading outward it was crowding other plants and transforming our neatly designed landscape into a jungle. The plant no longer provided the value we had desired when first planted. It was time to cut back or cut out.
Which got me thinking; how hard is it for managers to decide when it's time to go? Sometimes employees stay too long at a job, year after year racking up ever higher pay while not delivering more performance than they did the previous year.
Reliable workers? Good workers? Yes. Expensive? Yes to that, too. Is their value increasing? Not really.
Eventually you'll realize that, while reliable Bob is doing a fine job, someone else can do that same job for a lot less money. So what do you do?
Let it slide?
Think about it. If a loaf of bread is commonly priced at $2.00, why would you pay $3.00 for the same product, the same taste, the same benefit? Or even $2.50? Would this extra money be well spent? Or would you start scanning the store shelves for something more reasonable?
Creating the Problem
How does one get into this fix, having satisfactory but overpriced employees on the staff? Why do these employees seem stuck in place?
Often times the answer is simple and straightforward; because they're comfortable, to the point where they see no reason to rock the boat.
- They like it here; they like the job, their co-workers, the work environment.
- They know everything about the job(s), as well as the company, and so the stress level is reduced and they feel able to apply less effort on the job
- They're comfortable doing what they do, and have little motivation to do more. They're not driven to break out of their mold. They don't see themselves as being in a rut.
- The pay is good, or at least ok, so why leave and start fresh somewhere else? Where they would have to prove themselves all over again. Job search is a real bother, stressful too, and should be avoided until absolutely necessary.
So now we see why some employees stick around, content to remain on that treadmill. But why do their managers allow this problem to develop in the first place?
It's a Management Issue
Why don't managers cut off these employees? Or promote them up and out? Because many times taking such actions is not perceived as being in the best interest of the manager.
- The cost and headache of replacement; the time, disruption, the added stress
- More work would be created for the manager, filling in for planned projects; their time lines would be negatively impacted
- The perceived damage to the manager's reputation (employees have left), and leadership is watching
Then what's a manager to do? Corrective action is usually more wishful talk than action. Moving someone along when there isn't a performance problem is a tough decision to implement. Though sometimes it's the right thing to do, both for the company and the employee.
- Encourage employees to learn and grow within the company - preparing themselves for better positions
- Be open to losing an employee to another department that's better able to utilize their capabilities.
- Expect and demand continued and improved contributions from all your employees
- Plan to move them up or move them out as part of managing an evolving staff
Ask yourself, where is the balance of contribution provided (performance) versus value paid out (compensation)? When the balance tips too far in either direction, it's time for action. When an employee recognizes that there is more contribution on their part than value received, they look for the exit. However, when the employer sees that there is more value provided than performance contribution, it's time to move such employees along.
I'm just saying, the day will come - for some. When it does, will you recognize that it's time to pull the plug?
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image, "Exit," by Chris Griffith