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36. What to Do About Under-Performing Team Members

Getting stuck with under-performing team members is tricky. We don’t have the authority to correct the problem. And if we do try to correct the problem, the backlash typically isn’t worth the effort.

You could…

Ignore it - But this causes you to look bad too, especially if you are working with interdependent colleagues where you co-create deliverables.

Do everything yourself - But you’ll inevitably be overwhelmed with the increased workload.

Tell your manager - But you risk coming across as a caddy team member, which is unflattering.

Although it will take some work, below are the ideal solutions…

Document examples - It’s possible that you are being overly critical or biased. This will help you objectively express your concerns if you are approached by superiors for your opinion.

Express concern - There might be a good reason as to why they are under-performing. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are stretched too thin or they have personal circumstances at play. Approach the conversation with questions that get at their situation (e.g., workload, work-family conflict) and not at their individual characteristics (e.g., competence, motivation).

Advocate for anonymity - The primary reason team members don’t give accurate feedback on other team members is because they’re worried about the backlash if someone were to uncover the source. Explain to managers that you aren’t interested in participating in feedback about team members until proper systems have been put into place that ensures anonymity.

Ignoring issues typically causes stress and resentment. Be proactive, polite, and realistic about team member feedback to minimize these unnecessary outcomes.


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