As a manager or business owner, you will have your favorite employees. It is human nature.
The real question is... "Are you realistic about the contributions your favorite employees make or is blind love keeping you from letting a poor performer go?" Our experience suggests that a lot of blind love comes from working side-by-side with employees over the years - especially through emotionally-challenging times.
One such example of an "emotionally-challenging" time period would be the early stage of the startup of a business. We see this all the time - a long-term employee who was there in the beginning of the business (or close to the beginning), does not fit the job, yet the manager, owner, or supervisor cannot let them go because it would be "cruel and disloyal".
This blind love that keeps low performing employees on the bus and up on leaderships' pedastal is what I call the "Employee Love Paradox".
The "Employee Love Paradox" is the piling of adoration and gratitude upon employee team members(perhaps from the beginning) who really do not fit the job but cannot be let go because they have "put in their time." These poorly fit long-term employees are loyal but are actually destroying value in the company or adding very little positive impact to the bottom line. Thus the paradox...
What's more... These long-term employees often are "relics of the way things have always been done around here" - fighting change and causing unbelievable turmoil with new hires in particular who expect a level playing field that is fair.
Do not get me wrong… Loyalty is a good thing and this post is not designed to blindly say that a company should not be loyal to loyal employee team members. Quite the contrary. The difference is - companies should be more loyal to those on the team who are adding real value to the bottom line.
The following are four signs that the Employee Love Paradox is destroying value in your organization:
- Politics Matters More Than Performance - The "who matters more than the what". Meaning - organizational politics reign supreme and nothing makes sense other than the fact that "so-and-so" gets what they want despite the obvious damage or operational inefficiencies that result. It is interesting to note that typically "so-and-so" was one of the first 5, 10, 25, or 50 employees and therefore part of the "protected class" of employees. We also call this "employee favoritism".
- Change Efforts Fail Miserably - Change is constant and the Employee Love Paradox protects employees who do not want to change. I have seen some amazingly scary situations where the viability was in serious jeopardy and the employees needed to “get on the bus" and invariably some long-timers decided that they were not going to change. What happens next is fairly predictable - the Employee Love Paradox sets in - the employee is allowed to continue their old habits and ultimately diminish the competitive position of the team.
- You Wonder... "How on earth did this person get that job?" Often you hear people asking this question aloud. The employee who is constitutionally inept but in a position despite themselves. This position is often one of management. How did they get the job? The answer - they were there amongst the first wave of hires (often the worst of the worst hiring records).
Case in point - we have a large local warehouse business that I happen to love in Bismarck, ND. One supervisor in particular is quite good at destroying Customer value as I have had a "run-in" with her a time or two and have observed how she takes care of Customers. I recently asked a former colleague who works there, "What gives?" He said, "She was one of the original hires when the store opened." He gave me that "you know what I mean" kind of look. Yeah... I know what he means.
- Real High Performers Leave In Disgust - The real "Rainmakers" bail out and leave the laggards who cannot perform behind - further perpetuating the downward cycle.
Be careful that you are not in love with your employees for the wrong reasons. Loyalty is a good thing. Blind loyalty without performance accountability leads to the Employee Love Paradox.