When Loyalty Overrides Performance, Part II

By Chuck Violand

June 18, 2018

As you can imagine, situations where a loyal employee can no longer handle their job well become even more complicated when they involve family members who are active in the business. But, as tough as it might be, you must keep in mind your loyalty and responsibility to everyone in the company.

It’s not just about one person. The people we employ in our company are our professional family, and we owe all of them our loyalty as a group, not just one individual. When we allow poor performance to continue with one person—even if that person shares our last name—we’re compromising the security of everyone’s job and their opportunities for professional advancement. But, it goes even deeper.

Let’s face it, when most of us are faced with having to make a decision between our family and our business, we choose on the side of our family. It’s no different when those decisions involve an employee with subpar performance.

But, when people in our organization see someone continuing to underperform without any interference from the owner or manager (and they do notice), they may begin to question their own commitment to the company or their willingness to put in extra effort. As a result, one person’s poor performance often has a multiplying effect throughout an organization. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to most, and yet, the number of companies in which this is taking place probably would.

Better the devil I know.
An owner or manager failing to act in situations such as these can be for reasons other than loyalty to an employee or family member. It could be due to an owner accepting the devil he knows rather than the one he doesn’t. We justify hanging onto marginal performers with comments like “well, at least they show up on time,” or, “at least I know they’re never going to stab me in the back.” While this may be true, this kind of thinking doesn’t address the hidden costs associated with an underperformer. There’s not a line item on an income statement that measures the cost of someone who’s only performing at 75% of what the company needs, or the impact of an unhappy, poor performer on the morale of other employees. But the costs are real. And they eventually take a toll on the company.

Too often we avoid having these candid conversations because we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, or we want to avoid a confrontational situation. We kick this can down the road in the hope that it will, somehow, correct itself.

The larger our business grows, the more impactful each of our decisions becomes. The longer we let an underperforming employee remain in their position, the longer we let an unhealthy relationship continue.

Perhaps Dr. Morris Shechtman stated it best in saying there’s a fine line between caring for someone and taking care of them. In business, when we take care of someone we risk creating unhealthy, dependent relationships. When we care for someone we make the decisions and create the environment that we know is best for everyone. This is what loyalty is all about.