Should You Keep Mediocre Employees?

37652_vintage_bus_01 Here is the question; would you rather have 5 mediocre employees or two awesome ones?  Interesting thought when you actually think you need five employees to help you run your business.  I have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of small business owners, most of them physicians, who would rather keep a mediocre employee than to let them go and wait to find the right employee for their practice.

I shake my head every time I hear this.  Why would you want to keep someone who only performed half of what was needed, just because it was easier to let them stay than to take the time to find someone better suited for the position.  You maybe thinking “that just isn’t good business sense” but it happens more often than you probably think it does.

Finding the right employee for your business takes time and time is money, many employers would rather have a cold body than no body to fill a position, even if it causes negative issues.  Jim Collins talks in his book “Good to Great” talks about getting the right people on your bus (in your business) and the wrong people off your bus and then getting the right people into the right positions on your bus to make your business successful.  If you are a business owner and haven’t read this book, you really should, it has so much useful  information that you can use to make your business move ahead.

But getting back to just having an employee around to keep a seat warm, who doesn’t contribute to building your business, you really need to stop and think about how much time and money you are investing in them and for what?  I had this physician tell me once that he had two employees that he just couldn’t get motivated to do the work that was required of them each day.  He went on to tell me that he had to come in on the weekends to get the work done that they just couldn’t finish during the week and he wanted my advice on how to motivate them to get their work done.

After reviewing what the expectations were for these employees, it was very clear that they were not even coming close to being “overloaded with duties” they just didn’t get the job done and they knew their boss would make up for them.  It was amazing to me that he kept them, but he was afraid of what would happen if he let them go…how would what little they did do, get done?

After a little coaching on what he needed to do and all of the proper steps of documentation and discipline where complete he let them go.  He was very concerned about how he would keep things up until he found the right employee, but he quickly found out that with a few extra hours from him and another staff member they were able to keep things in better shape than before with these two employees.  He eventually was able to hire a great employee who actually was able to do the work of both of the other employees without any problem or overtime.  As hard of a transition it was for him, it turned out wonderful.  He now had a functioning business that was moving forward and he was able to do it with one less employee because he found the right person for his bus and got rid of the mediocre employees who only did half the job that they were suppose to.

As a business owner or supervisor it is good to stop and examine who is on your bus and are they the right people to take your business where you want to go, if not you need to do what is right for your business.

The link below is to an interesting article about  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and hiring the right people for the job instead of more mediocre people.

Related Article


10 thoughts on “Should You Keep Mediocre Employees?

  1. Great post! I am also amazed at how many times employers feel like they are being held hostage by mediocre employees. Sometimes mediocre would be an overly generous description. Not only is the time and money invested a waste, but from a customer service standpoint, what are those mediocre employees saying about your business? My background is hospitality and service can mean the difference between a one time visit or a repeat customer and that means more lost money. BTW, I have not read “Good to Great”. Sounds like I need to pick it up. Thanks!

    • Laurie, great input. I am also surprised at employers keeping people just to warm the chairs. And you are so right in saying these types of employees can kill a business if you are quick to get them off the bus! Have a great weekend!

  2. I think in a lot of cases it may be the managers lack of confidence that holds them back. They think that they are not capable of picking the right person or that based on what the are paying they will never find the right person. There are good people at any pay scale, but whether or not every manager is capable of determining who they are is debatable.

    • You are correct in your Thinking here MBN, decernment is a key factor in good management. Finding the right employees to dance to the right music is a challenge. But I have found more employers and managers who would rather keep less than average producing employees than to try to replace them due to time constraints and training issues, which is just poor business.

  3. “Here is the question; would you rather have 5 mediocre employees or two awesome ones?”

    When I read this question, I immediately thought that I’d rather have two awesome ones. A really productive employee can get so much done. They usually have a sense for how much time to spend on things and how to do them a lot more efficiently. They also tend not to waste time on things that add little or no value.

    • You my friend have hit the nail on the head! What is sad is that most employers will hold onto poor performers for a year or more just because they do not want to try to find the right employee. They do not realize what it is actually costing them, because they do not want to look..pretty amazing

  4. Pingback: A creative way to get great employees

  5. The problem with finding the right employees starts with process.

    Peruse resumes, interview, check references, etc. They say only 14% of interviews are done correctly when it comes to choosing a new hire. Reason? as humans we have a personal bias.

    Companies should look into job benchmarking. In this process we ask “What if the job could talk?” The process is explained here >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.