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Semi competent employee

#1 Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 14:54

Rummy Rumsfeld


What are your thoughts about this:

I am a manager in a consulting practice, and have an employee who is semicompetent.

He does his job ok ( just barely meeting expectations). He is generally well liked by his peers, including the client.

His attitude to the job is average (passable). However, he lacks some professionalism by late arrivals to work , shoots his mouth off sometimes, etc.

This person knows, as does his team, that he is not fully utilising his strenghts. This guy has so much potential, he can solve the most pressing challenges....if he wants to. He has far more potential than anyone else on the team. Now, we all know he is stuck in a job that isnt the best for him, and he is making an effort to make the best of it. Unfortunately, the results are only average.

His salary is also above the rest of the team. Although this has not caused friction between the team members, we expect a bit more from him given his high pay. His job is fairly well supplied in the market and is thus not difficult to find a replacement.

As his boss, what do i do:

1. Fire him ( citing average performance, which brings the rest of the team down a bit, and also the lack of professionalism). I could also make an argument that his 'cost-benefit' is the lowest amongst the team.

2. Take him off the project and cut him loose - let him do whatever on the bench. He will eventually take the hint and voluntarily resign.

3. Given his potential, try and find something else for him, maybe in a different line of work in the company. He can add so much if he is energised and engaged in his work....and the company probably should not let go of a resource like this, just engage HR to find something more suitable for him.

What should I do? Its always the borderline employees that are the most difficult to manage.

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#2 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 15:53

anon to Rummy Rumsfeld (#1)

Some people only give their best when they are challenged. Clearly this person's role is not challenging enough for him.

If you care about the person and feel that indeed he can give a lot more to the company in a different role then by all means find him one. I don't see why you should fire him. As a manager it is your duty to MANAGE your people.

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#3 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 17:43

Cat Herder to Rummy Rumsfeld (#1)

Make a deal - he puts in the effort and demonstrates high performance for the remainder of this project and you promise to go out of your way/talk to HR to get him into a more appropriate role for the next project.

Above all, communicate. Talk to the person, find out his perspective. Is he kicking his heels because he thinks he's been sidelined into a cr*ppy career path with the firm? Does he know that you've recognised he has additional potential?

It's also important to understand the context. Did he used to be a high-performing project whose performance has only been low on this project? In that case, you could check whetner the role description he was promised for this project matches reality. Has he always impressed his managers by his potential but never delivered? In that case, maybe consulting or this firm just isn't the right place to bring out that potential. Etc.

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#4 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 19:21

Cynic to Cat Herder (#3)

OK, let's get to the real issue here. By your own admission, he does his job OK - but you want more because you think he is capable of more. You're saying that he is basically competent at his job, and generally well liked. He makes the odd mistake however - arriving late timetimes and occasionally speaking his mind. He produces 'average' results even though he is capable of more (average implies OK/acceptable if not outstanding). Apologies if I'm stepping out of line here, but it sounds like there's more to this situation that you've told us about. What's the REAL reason you're gunning for this guy?

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#5 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 20:01

anon to Cynic (#4)

Why not give the guy a break? It's managers like you who insist on everyone being above average (which by definition is impossible) that make consulting the pressure cooker environment it is. He's doing OK, right?... so what's the problem? Have you ever been in a situation where your best just isn't good enough? It's not pleasant, is it?... so why not do your karma some good and treat him like you yourself would want to be treated?

Alternatively, how about seeing a psychatrist? Seriously, it sounds like you're getting obsessive about someone who is basically doing OK. Sorry if that sounds rude, but it really might be worth taking a look in the mirror before going in for the kill.

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#6 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 20:17

Pun to anon (#5)

Agree with the last couple of posts. If he's doing a passable job, why are you so bothered? Is it just that you know he could do more? It sounds like he's optimising his situation on a job he's not really interested in by doing what's required and no more. It sounds like you're not optimising your situation by getting the best out of your team.

Personally, I know I can be fairly average when I'm not engaged by a project. If I can get passable results, why would I waste my time doing more?

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#7 RE: Semi competent employee
16/11/2008 23:57

Rummy Rumsfeld to Pun (#6)

The employee in question is doing a passable job, but his work does have some flaws in it that have to be corrected by others ( more competant) in his team. This is bringing the team down a bit somewhat.

We need our deliverables to , say, an 80% quality mark. He is delivering about 50-60%, leaving the others in the team to make the revisions up to 80%.

I just think that employees like this are rare in terms of their creativity/innovation, strategicx thinking etc...and that our firm can definately use a person like this but not in this context. This employee is a real idea lab, and can differentiate our company if placed on the right kind of project.

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#8 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 08:53

Cynic to Rummy Rumsfeld (#7)

OK, just another few observations. You say that he is scoring around 50-60% on the quality scale but your team needs 80%. Is his work actually factually flawed, or is it perhaps that you just don't agree with his approach/results and mentally mark it down and have it re-done? We've all had line managers who insist their version of the truth is the only correct version, and we all know how frustrating it can be when you KNOW you're right but a line manager over-rides you and gets you to re-do things when it's not necessary or, in some cases, actually lowers the quality of the end result (even though the line manager in question would still insist and in fact actually believe they're right).

Could is just be that he has a different way of doing things, and you're frustrated because you're uncomfortable with having things done a different way? Would you say you're quite a controlling person? I'm just trying to ask questions here to help raise your level of self-awareness. Maybe the problem isn't the employee, but instead for some reason you have this guy locked in your targets and won't be happy until you've shot him down? Why are you REALLY going for him like this?

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#9 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 08:59

anon to Cynic (#8)

Hmmm, I think I can see what's going on here.



A mental indecisiveness.....

You fancy him, don't you!

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#10 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 12:07

Rummy Rumsfeld to Cynic (#8)

Our team has a set of standards about how they should do things. This standard has been agreed amongst team members ( of which there are many), and also the client. A deviation from this 'procedure' causes confusion to the client and also other stakeholders withing our own team.

The issue is that this person is very creative , in a good way for the company ( e.g. he has ideas for growth, financial analyses, etc), but this project has NO scope for creativity. The project he is assigned to follows set and established ( and signed off) methodologies and processes and does not leave any room for interpretation nor creativeness.

A deviation from this process requires re-work.

Whilst I fully encourage employees to utilise their skills, including creativity, it must be done at the right place and at the right time. This project is neither. Thus, i think its best for him, the team, the client, and also the company if he is placed on another project where he can fully utilise his skills and interests.

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#11 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 12:24

Cynic to Rummy Rumsfeld (#10)

Why not sit down with him and in a friendly, no-attitude kind of way, have a talk with him about how important it is that he follows the project processes down to the letter? Does he really know just how important it is to you that he precisely follows the agreed (and I assume documented) processes? Has anyone gone through these processes with him and made sure he understands them?

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#12 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 13:51

Cowboy to Cynic (#11)

Some consultants are just mavericks. Maybe he's not ready to hang up his dog tags?

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#13 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 16:37

boaby to Cowboy (#12)

So you might want him off the project... but why do you want him out of the company? Why are firing him and/or constructively dismissing him through bench time on your option list? Surely once he's off the project, he's not your problem any more?

Seems a bit personal?

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#14 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 17:14

Cynic to boaby (#13)

boaby, you've articulated perfectly exactly what I was thinking....

If he wants him off his project for whatever reason, then fine. Maybe it's for the good of the project. But to go the extra step and want him fired, just because his results on this particular project aren't as awesome as you think he's capable of? Sounds pretty harsh.

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#15 RE: Semi competent employee
17/11/2008 17:18

Sister to boaby (#13)

Sit down with him and tell him how you feel, lay it on the line, explain your frustrations and tell him you like him but your not happy with how he is behaving. Tell him if things don't change that's it, he's gone. Insist that even though you have been through a lot, this is his last chance. And do not give in, be strong, you'll only end up back here again... sometimes men just need a push in the right direction...

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#16 RE: Semi competent employee
18/11/2008 13:19

Insider to Sister (#15)

This is bad management, If someone in YOUR team isn't performing then its as much YOUR fault as THEIRS !

Maybe your boss is looking to sack you because you can't get your team to perform the way he/she wants.

Have you considered management training or effective people management ? Seems to me your new to this and should spend more time learning how to motivate people than posting on a consulting forum !

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