Low Performers Deliver Even More Bad News

New Study Finds 42% of Low Performers MORE Engaged than High and Middle Performers

Over the years our ongoing engagement studies have kept leaders well informed about the negative impact low performers have on their high and middle performing peers. For example, in one study of over 70,000 employees, we learned that working with low performers made 87% of study participants want to change jobs while 93% reported it decreased their productivity. For any organization that values its people, news like this is pretty bad. But as our newest and just released study reveals, it gets even worse.

As reported in multiple media sources including the Wall Street Journal, when we compared the detailed performance evaluation and engagement survey data from over 200 companies, we found that in 42% of companies, low performers report being more engaged – more motivated, and more likely to enjoy working at their job than their middle and high performing peers. And what’s perhaps even more agonizing to learn is that most low performers don’t even know they’re slacking. That’s right, not only are your low performers doing a bad job for the organization and chasing away your high and middle performers, many of them are oblivious to any wrongdoing. And that only makes your good people feel even more disengaged. In tough times when organizations most need their best talent, leaders need to do a better job at holding low performers accountable.

Increasing accountability in low performers 

Increasing accountability starts by learning to recognize and respond to the four stages most people go through before they get to accountability. Because once you can positively identify whether it’s denial, excuses, blame and/or anxiety that is preventing someone from reaching accountability, you can take focused action to move your folks past these roadblocks. So when you hear “I didn’t know there was a problem,” or “It’s Bob’s fault, not mine,” or “I can’t handle the stress; I’m totally freaking out” you can lead these employees straight into “Sure. No problem. I got it covered.” And in many cases, the only action required to move people into accountability is a quick conversation like the fact-based ‘Candor Conversation’ that moves people past denial, or the ‘Planning Conversation’ that alleviates anxiety by breaking tough issues into bite-sized pieces that are easier to tackle.

Of course, when performance levels fail to meet your clear expectations it’s also critical to enforce accountability with real-life consequences. Not only does this tell slackers that the free ride is over, it lets your best performers, who have been waiting for you to do something to differentiate them from the slackers, know that you’re taking action to remove one of their biggest pain points. And that’s going to do a lot to increase engagement in your high and middle performers.

Leadership IQ has all the scripts, and we’ll be sharing them in our upcoming webinar How to Be Inspiring & Motivating in Tough Times.  We’ll also be talking about setting the kind of targets that inspire employees to go above and beyond to deliver great performance and some really tough issues like how your own attitude and behavior directly affect your employees’ level of motivation.

Mark Murphy is the New York Times Bestselling author and Founder of Leadership IQ.

Click here to see Mark’s upcoming webinars.

Mark leads one of the world’s largest leadership training and employee engagement studies, and his work has appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and the Washington Post. Mark has also been a featured guest on programs including CBS News Sunday Morning, ABC’s 20/20, Fox Business News and NPR.

Mark’s leadership training and employee engagement surveys have yielded remarkable results for organizations such as Harvard Business School, Aflac, Charles Schwab, Microsoft, IBM, MasterCard, Merck, MD Anderson Cancer Center, FirstEnergy, Volkswagen and Johns Hopkins.

Mark’s best-selling books included Hiring for Attitude, Hundred Percenters, and HARD Goals.

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