Have you ever had a positive experience with a company whose employees are miserable? If so, I'd certainly like to hear about this, as the two don't generally go hand in hand. Employees who are discontent make poor company ambassadors that make for a lousy customer experience. Most do the bare minimum (if even that) to get by, until something better comes along or they are shown the door. But here's the problem. While they are occupying valuable real estate in your firm, you are losing out on the opportunity to bring in people who are willing and able to do what it takes (and much more) to delight your customers.
So what's holding you back from taking action? Here are some of my observations based on my 15 years of working with clients.
Fear of the unknown: You know you have a lousy employee, yet you fear the person you hire to replace them will be just as bad, if not worse, than the person you have. To some, it may seem logical to do nothing. With a little luck, they will go away on their own. Here's the problem with this sort of thinking. "Luck" is directly tied to the economy. It's unlikely someone is going to go away on their own when they are drawing a steady paycheck and they are not being pushed out the door. Jobs are hard to find and your underperforming employee knows this.
I'm here to tell you that this is the perfect time to take action, as there still is an abundance of talent ready and able to work for your organization. I guarantee the person you hire will be better than the one you have. That is if you are patient and wait until you find the right match. In the mean time, clear your organization of the debris that is blocking you from achieving the type of success that is possible.
Conflict avoidance: Conflict is something that scares the pants off of most people. Why else would they put up with situations they know are damaging? A little conflict can be a good thing, especially when in the end your needs are met.
Sometimes circumstances such as family obligations prevent miserable employees from quitting their jobs. Handling the situation head on is exactly what you must do to move forward. Don't be surprised if the employee thanks you on his way out the door.
Litigation concerns: Yes it's reasonable to be concerned about being sued when you fire a disgruntled employee. However, you can't let fear get in the way of running your business. In my experience, people sue when they feel they haven't been treated fairly. This is their way of announcing to the world that you did them wrong. However, you can minimize this risk by treating employees with respect. Provide feedback along the way and let people know exactly what will occur if they are unable to turn their performance around. This will reduce the possibility that an employee will turn to their lawyer for satisfaction.
No one said running a company or managing people would be easy. But it certainly doesn't have to be as difficult as you are making it. Shop your own company; gather feedback from friends and clients regarding customer satisfaction and take action. Then sit back and watch your revenues grow.
© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All Rights Reserved.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the new book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey). Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.