18 Examples of Low Performance
John Spacey, September 26, 2021
Low performance is when an employee's work is less than satisfactory. This is less severe than poor performance or serious issues such as insubordination or unethical behavior. As such, it is common for an employer to be patient with low performers such that they are given a chance to improve. The following are illustrative examples of low performance.
Low ThroughputAn employee who simply doesn't get much done. This includes employees who avoid projects and action items and those who take on work they find difficult to complete in a timely manner.
Busy WorkerEmployees who work hard on things that have very low value such as creating documents that aren't valuable to their organization. This occurs where an employee easily takes low value action items. It also occurs where employees pursue their own mission that is disconnected from the rest of their firm.
Win-LoseEmployees who view work as a political competition as opposed to an exercise in value creation. For example, a manager who spends much of their time trying to derail projects sponsored by their political competition.
Talent ShortfallEmployees who simply lack talent in their role. For example, a salesperson who isn't good with customers such that they find it difficult to close. If these employees are highly engaged, they will benefit from support and training such as a talented mentor.
DisengagementEmployees who are disengaged such that they are fundamentally disinterested in their work. These employees are often disengaged for their own reasons such that it is essentially a myth that they can be "motivated" by leadership. In some cases, disengaged employees suddenly become high performers -- often because priorities shift in their life.
DisconnectionAn employee who is too isolated, disconnected or uncooperative given the requirements of their role. For example, a salesperson who doesn't maintain customer relationships.
MediocrityMediocrity is when an individual clings to a group but minimizes their contributions to that group. As employees, the mediocre will do the minimum required not to be fired. As such, their performance may temporarily improve when they feel their job is at risk.
OverconfidenceEmployees who take big political steps because view themselves as political contenders without the ability to follow through in any reasonable way. For example, an entry level employee who is too busy trying to get the attention of executives to do their day-to-day job. This can be extremely problematic for their direct manager.
Risk TakersEmployees who try big things and fail. These employees may have periods where they are misunderstood as low performers but are likely to persevere with time. The risk takers differ from the overconfident as they are concerned with value creation over politics.
Low ResilienceEmployees who have trouble dealing with the stresses and demands of a job. For example, a customer service representative who regularly loses it when dealing with difficult customers.
Low Self-DirectionEmployees who require regular guidance from others. These employees may complete their assigned work but require much attention from others. For example, a software developer who immediately asks your senior architect for help whenever they run into a coding or technical problem. This may lower the overall productivity of your team. The individual with low self-direction may also be unlikely to learn and improve as they are by definition uninterested in solving problems and finding direction on their own.
Lack of ProfessionalismLack of professionalism such as a doctor who adopts a hostile and mocking tone towards patients.
Low Customer SatisfactionLow customer satisfaction such as a product designer who produces designs that clients and customers dislike.
Poor Work QualityPoor work quality such as an aircraft mechanic whose work regularly fails inspection.
AuthoritarianismAuthoritarianism is the use of artifacts of authority to enjoy a personal sense of power. This can be applied to employees who creatively use processes, rules and procedures to make others unhappy in order to enjoy a sense of superiority. This doesn't create much value and is low performance but can be difficult to manage.
Rule BreakerThe free spirit who enjoys bypassing processes and ignoring procedures. In many cases, rule breakers are talented but can cause much damage to a firm in areas such as compliance, risk management, internal controls, cost management, organizational culture and reputation. For example, an executive who hires people they know without following proper procedures such that they create a bozo explosion whereby employees are hired with inflated job titles and salaries who are generally incompetent in their assigned roles.
Resistance to ChangeEmployees who unreasonably resist change or fail to keep up with change to their industry, profession and role. For example, a new hire who insists that your organization change all of its processes to match the way they have always done things at another firm.
Team CultureAn employee who is messing up your team culture in some way. For example, someone who is rude and disrespectful in a team where respect and cooperation are the norm.
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