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The challenge of under performing staff

Got team members not pulling their weight?

Imagine you are a member of a tug-o-war team who has an important match-up against a formidable opponent. At the starter’s gun, everyone pulls on the rope with all the strength they can muster – at least this is how it appears to the team coach. However, from your perspective you know that the person in front of you is merely holding onto the rope. They are not putting in much effort at all and accordingly, your team is slowing being dragged towards defeat.

How do you feel?

This issocial loafing (or slacking off in a group). Social loafing is common; however, it becomes dangerous when it goes unaddressed and this can have several consequences.

  1. Some team members will address the loafer directly, or tell their manager
  2. Some will begin to loosen their own grip on the rope out of frustration and belief that under-performance is tolerated.
  3. Many who are intrinsically motivated to perform well will not be able to tolerate this ‘authorised slacking’ and will leave to join another team. – Ouch!

I see an alarming amount of unaddressed social loafing in business. Sometimes, due to a lack of measurement systems, managers are not aware of the under performance, and this (perceived) inability to measure performance is a key catalyst for the social loafer to loaf.   More often than ineffective measurement however, loafing remains unaddressed due to managers not knowing how to deal with it. But like any job, fixing social loafing is simplified when you have the right tools. (We may be able to help)

A final and important note on this ‘phenomenon’. The overwhelming majority of social loafing that I’ve helped address, has not been due to an exclusive lack of commitment on the part of the loafer. The root has stemmed from systemic gaps in the organisations’ recruiting – inducting – role clarity – performance management etc.

So if you have team members holding, but not pulling on the rope – here’s that old chestnut again. “Be hard on the problem, not on the person” and sort social loafing before it infects others.

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Yours in prosperity & fun

Jeff Austin

Business Coach, Bunbury WA
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Jeff Austin - Business Coach Bunbury

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