Strategic Human Capital Insights

The Organizational Impact of the Underperforming Employee

The Statement: “That’s Just Bob Being Bob."

Shadow hand pointing at a small afraid workerHave you ever heard this statement before, or worse yet, have you ever said those words yourself? I know I have certainly heard those words in every scenario from work to athletics to family, and my emotional response to those words have ranged from frustration, consternation, disgust to despair. 

What does this have to do with Performance Review? Since many of you are in performance review season, consider if you have an employee that you can associate with this statement, “That’s just Bob being Bob”. The situation that causes this statement doesn’t live in organizational isolation. Let’s take a serious look at the negative organizational impacts in the workplace of this statement and the underlying situation.

Here’s a recent and very real situation I witnessed in a store that provides a customer-related service.  I’m sure we have all experienced a situation like this in the workplace. As you read through this situation, think about all possible resulting organizational impacts. As a manager, if you have one of these employees / situations, the performance review process is the perfect time to identify this person and set up a development plan to correct the situation, one way or another!

The Situation: Customer Trying to Place an Order

The Actors: The first provider, the second provider and the customer.

  • A female customer was at a store counter waiting to place an order.
  • At the time, there were two male customer-service providers. The first provider, Bob, was dealing with another customer while the second provider, Carl, was staring out into the store doing nothing.
  • It was clear that the female customer at the counter needed help and the help was not coming from the ‘second’ provider, Carl.
  • When the first provider, Bob, was finished with the other customer, he just walked away leaving the female customer waiting for service.
  • Then, a male customer walked up to the counter and immediately, the second provider, Carl, stepped up and took care of him.
  • After a period of time, the first provider, Bob, came back and the female customer asked why she had not been taken care of by the second provider, Carl. The first provider, Bob, just laughed at her, like her question was a joke.
  • The female customer said to Bob, that, “he picked the wrong person to laugh at”, and Bob chuckled again. The female customer found the manager and made a complaint. 
  • Later, Carl, the second provider apologized for both himself and Bob.
  • The other customer got involved confirming the situation and was equally mad, on principle.
  • Another ‘observer employee’ commented that over the year, there had been numerous complaints about Bob and nothing had changed allowing “Bob to be Bob”.
  • An assistant manager got involved relaying information.
  • The manager later got involved again to call the female customer to apologize for Bob.


The Fallout

While one employee like Bob may not appear, on the surface, to cause big problems, there are very real negative organizational impacts to saying, “That’s Bob just being Bob”. What’s wrong with this picture? Here is the damage one underperforming employee can cause in time, morale, productivity and revenue.  

  • The only employee not involved in the aftermath was Bob – the problem. Hmm!
  • How many times did Carl need to deal with Bob and his lack of customer service. Carl had to take his time to apologize for another employee.
  • An ‘observer employee’ stated that Bob had displayed this behavior continually and wondered what was wrong with the manager just letting Bob be Bob?
  • How many customers were lost translating into loss of store revenue?
  • What was the reputational risk to the store when there are many other competitors?
  • What is the matter with store management to have allowed an employee to behave this way for so long?


One Bad Employee and So Many Impacts

Managers, as you go through the performance review process, if you have even one Bob on your team, please fix this employee. It’s just not fair to anyone else who has the misfortune to have to deal with him. It may be hard, but that is management's responsibility, especially during this performance
review period.


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Topics: Human Asset Management, Performance Management

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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