The Dangers Of Ignoring Performance Issues

The Dangers Of Ignoring Performance Issues

There are A LOT of theories out there about how much a bad hire costs an organization. They range anywhere from $240,000 according to well-known recruiter Jörgen Sundberg to , at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Either way, that is incredibly damaging to an organization. While the financial impact is definitely quantifiable, CFOs actually rank a bad hire’s morale and productivity impacts ahead of monetary losses and permitting poor performance not only adds to the financial implications of poor performance and a poor fit but it inflames the morale and productivity issues of the organization. Disruptive employees lower the bar for other employees, and their bad habits are easily spread like a virus.

I recently met a manager who built their business around a completely chaotic and confused team culture. Procrastination was their level of urgency and everything became, essentially, a fire-drill at the last moment. Even after removing this person from the immediate equation, we still had to invest significant time and resources to reset the behaviors of team members who emulated the manager’s approach to assignment execution to re-skill time management, planning, and productivity habits.

Impact Of Disruptive Workplace Behaviors

According to SHRM, various studies have found that of employees who have faced disruptive behavior on the part of a work colleague have responded this way:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased their time at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased their work quality.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the issue.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said their performance declined.
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 94% of leaders had worked with a toxic individual in the last five years.

Deviant workplace behaviors that were the catalyst for this lost productivity and lowered morale – generally – fall into one of four categories:

  • Production deviance, involving behaviors like being late, excessive absenteeism,  leaving early, and/or intentionally working slow or below company standards;
  • Property deviance, involving sabotage of company property or theft of company assets;
  • Political deviance, involving excuses, gossiping, or assigning blame and,
  • Personal aggression, involving harassment, verbal abuse, and endangerment.

Potential Consequences Of Ignoring Poor Employee Performance

Employing the strategy of hope when dealing with poor performance and toxic team members is the best way to erode your team’s business performance and rapidly exit the top performers from the organization. In my many years as a professional I have heard a lot of excuses as to why problem employees aren’t dealt with. These excuses have ranged anywhere the “that’s just the way they are“, when faced with the need to address your employee who is habitually late or who refuse to follow through on assignment deadlines – to stating your team is “like my family” which allows for a higher [albeit irresponsible] tolerance around not-so-great behavior or diminished productivity.

According to a McKinsey study, 59% of employees would be “delighted” if managers dealt with problem employees, but only 7% of those responding to employee surveys believed their companies were actually doing it.

When you choose to cross your fingers and hope the issue(s) resolves itself you are jeopardizing so many things that can negatively effect your team and their performance. As a leader you have promised to support the growth, development, and future marketability of your employees. That doesn’t mean only dealing with the good stuff…recognition, promotions, celebration of team successes. It means that you provide fair and balanced feedback to your team – always. It means that you communicate honestly and genuinely the good, the bad, and the fabulous with them, in-the-moment…consistently.

Disengaged employees who then create bad customer experiences can cause a 50% decrease in customer spending.

Successful teams are radically honest with each other. They are collaborative, productive, and demand a lot from each other. They celebrate the wins and hold each other accountable for their misses. Leaders that choose to ignore all of the warning signs and make excuses for, refuse to address, or fail to actively work towards resolving employee issues could have dire consequences on your team’s productivity and engagement; some of which include:

  • IT NEGATIVELY EFFECTS MORALE: Even if no one on your team has articulated their dissatisfaction to you – trust me – they are talking about it and that is bad news. Lackluster, lazy performance by even one of your employees will have an impact on each team member who works closely with them. They know that they are probably going to have to pick up some of slack or fix mistakes made by their toxic colleague.
  • IT ERODES YOUR LEADERSHIP REPUTATION: Every team member [including the bad one] is forming their own perceptions. Not only about their problem colleague, and that person’s behavior, but they are also forming negative opinions about your ability to lead and support their career path. Your team is watching very closely to see how you handle these ubiquitous workplace challenges whether you realize it or not. I can tell you from experience that most – if not all – of your team members are likely sharing their concerns with colleagues, family, friends, and acquaintances. Inaction can have far reaching consequences for both your professional brand and your organization’s brand.
  • IT EXACERBATES EMPLOYEE ISSUES: Some of your team sees your cowardice toward the situation and learn that it’s perfectly fine to be late for work, miss deadlines, not participate because there is no follow up or accountability. Once it’s okay for one person to do it, other’s know that you are likely too gutless to address these issues with them and – just like that, your culture is compromised.

  • IT GIVES AN IMPRESSION OF FAVORITISM: Or discrimination – depending on how the individuals on your team translate your inaction. People recognize, quickly, that you are allowing a colleagues of theirs to control their environment, to select what values they align with [and which they ignore], and the decreased contribution they make to the business – all with no consequence. They see who tells you what work they will perform or not. Failing to hold them accountable makes it seem as though they are “above the standards” by their co-workers and their immediate response – in most cases – is to pull back on their own productivity and active interest in the business to level the playing field.
  • IT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS EMPLOYEE RETENTION: When your most valuable team members dread coming in to work each day because there is “drama” or a toxic co-worker, or they perceive that others are receiving preferential treatment. You risk losing your best, most productive talent based on their reality that you severely lack in leadership and objectivity.
  • IT CAN RESULT IN ESCALATED HR ISSUES OR LITIGATION: When you allow individuals to create challenges and cross the line in your workplace without taking immediate action, you run the risk that your other team members won’t feel confident enough to approach you with their concerns. After all, why would they if you don’t manage the rest of the team effectively? They know from experience based on your past inaction that you are unlikely do anything to address difficult issues and obstacles and therefore don’t feel confident that you’ll even listen to their concerns. Some will feel that their only hope for resolution is through elevating their burdens to HR or even to state and federal agencies depending on the actual nature of the issue(s).


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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One thought on “The Dangers Of Ignoring Performance Issues

  1. I couldnt’ve worded it better myself, thanks Elizabeth! Im currently in a similar situation myself as a middle manager at a branch of americas largest chain of musical instrument stores. At the end of the day the principal concern of anyone in a position of authority has to be enforcing accountability. Without this the whole organization is doomed. I worry though that these days holding someone accountable is seen as an act of aggression; that too many employees at all levels feel unjustly persecuted by it – that its personal, mean, tyrannical and cruel. With everyone so sensative how do we hold people accountable without creating an HR issue?

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