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The Special Secret of Chronic Low Performers

Aug 2

Do you guys want to know a little secret?  You know how I like hanging out with smokers because they have all the cool inside information before anyone else?  Your chronic low performers have a similar skill.  It’s kind of like information.  Chronic low performers are really good at being low performers!  They’ve figured it out!  They’ve figured out how to do the bare minimum, without getting fired, and you still pay them for showing up and continuing to give you low performance.

If that isn’t a skill then I don’t know what skills are! Let that marinate a little on your mind.

The only reason you have a chronic low performer, is they’ve figured out how to master low performance.

All of us have chronic low performers.  We’ve shot them a million times behind closed doors but never pulled the trigger when the door was open.  I can distinctly remember having conversations about a certain manager when I was at Applebees at 6 straight calibration meetings over 3 years and heard stories about him before I’d come into the organization.  He just was good/bad enough to keep hanging on.  One meeting we’d be short, so he’d make it one more session. Then, the next meeting we’d have some idiot do something really bad and Mr. Chronic Low Performer lives on to suck another day!  The next meeting it would be some other lame reason.  Each time just squeaking by.

Then, the next meeting we’d have some idiot do something really bad and Mr. Chronic Low Performer lives on to suck another day!  The next meeting it would be some other lame reason.  Each time just squeaking by.

Think about all of the people you’ve ever let go. They usually fall into 3 – 4 groups:

1. Bad Performer/bad fit from the start (you shot them early)

2. Good Performer did something really stupid (didn’t want to fire, but had to)

3. Layoffs (decision above your pay grade)

4. Chronic Low Performers (hardly ever happens, they do anything really stupid, personally you don’t hate them)

We have Chronic Low Performers because they make it easy for us to keep them.  They say the right things when we tell them they need to pick it up or else. They’re ‘company’ people, all except for actually adding value part.  They give you no major reason to let them go, all except for not really doing that good of a job.  They always seem to have a semi-legitimate reason for not performing well.

I always wonder how much money chronic low performers have cost organizations vs. the good/great performers we had to let go because they pushed the envelope a little too far and we had to fire them.  My guess is the low performers win hands-down.  You could have a great sales person who is constantly fudging his expense reports or a chronic low performer in the same role. Who would you take?

You don’t have to answer, you do every day.  You take the low performer.  “Well, what do you want us to keep the thief!”  No. But I’m wondering if great performance can be rehabbed?  I know Chronic Low Performance can’t.  My guess is good/great probably can.  Just a thought.

So, why do you have chronic low performers?  It’s not that you allow it. It’s because you just found out what they are really good at!

5 Comment to “The Special Secret of Chronic Low Performers”

  1. CPLs are certainly plaguing the workplace. The best way we have found for inviting them to higher performance is feedback coming from their peers.

    Generally, top down feedback is not effective. They have mastered the art of the side-step, just like you said.

    Aug 3, 2017
  2. My experience is that CLPs are usually people that are either:
    – Just plan lazy
    – not in the right role

    It’s pretty amazing what happens when we find the right role for folks. The problem is sometimes that’s on your team, not on your team but in the company, and sometimes it means helping them leave. In the end, finding that role benefits everyone…

    Aug 3, 2017
  3. I agree Mary. And also I am laughing because I don’t smoke but I’ve always hung out with the smokers because of your opening paragraph.. I thought I was the only one who knew that “trick” 🙂

    Julie Benedict
    Aug 2, 2017
  4. Don’t forget that many chronic low performers are also REALLY good at managing up…including above YOU.

    Mary Faulkner
    Aug 2, 2017
  5. Why are low performers ever hired?

    Aug 2, 2017

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