GNcareers, from Gulf News

Knowing when to let go of laggards

''I just fired one of my section leaders...'' said Abdul, recently appointed senior vice-president at a construction company in Abu Dhabi, to me last week during my monthly coaching phone call. ''And what were your reasons?'' I asked.

''He was making repeated errors that were unacceptable. I couldn't manage the situation any longer as he was becoming a liability to the whole department. He had no sense of pride,'' Abdul replied. ''Do you think I did the right thing?''

Not an easy one to answer, I can tell you. We all know how important it is to take remedial action when we see work that is unacceptable, but it is not always simple for some individuals to change. Having operated personally in a certain way for years, it is often too difficult for them to change their mindset and way of working. However, such a situation may need to change dramatically when a new senior executive arrives.

A new senior vice-president can mean that you are faced with an immediate challenge. Either raise your game immediately or accept the fact that you may have to find alternative employment with another company. Neither are easy choices but they are ones that need to be addressed.

Diagnosing sloppy work

People can submit work that is incomplete or otherwise unsatisfactory, for many different reasons. They may have had insufficient time owing to tight deadlines; they may have poor time-management skills; they may not have fully understood the task they had been given or it is possible they might just be bored with their work.

With all of us, there will be aspects of our jobs that we may not like and, therefore, in which we don't excel. You may be a great communicator and presenter on a platform but you may hate the report-writing that goes with the job because it takes you out of your comfort zone.

You may think that a wrong decision was only small and unlikely to have any major impact because you didn't appreciate the possible importance of it. However, what you may not have seen is the bigger picture and the impact a mistake could have on an important decision to be taken by others and which depends on the accuracy of your work.

When you think of sloppy work, you might visualise tasks not being performed correctly; documents presented full of errors with no regard given to team goals and objectives and/or the impact of such mistakes upon a third-party. Of course, errors can also be intangible such as inattentive listening to customer demands or inappropriate remarks that can damage the credibility of your own organisation.

So, how can you overcome inappropriate behavior or unacceptable work within your team?


Before you discuss sloppy work with a team member, first examine your own mindset to ensure you are not just being a perfectionist with targets that are unrealistic. If you are, then any work produced by others may not match your high standards because they might well be unachievable.

Talk to your team member

Take into consideration that your team member may not realize that there is a potential problem in his work output, so that an initial conversation, handled with sensitivity, might be all that is required to achieve the result you want. It might be useful to enumerate examples of mistakes that have been made and to then confirm that the individual has a full understanding of the standard of work that is expected of him.

Identify additional resources

It is also important to make sure that there isn't a training issue that needs to be addressed. Sometimes, individuals may not be confident enough to ask for additional training and it may be up to you to identify if this is part of the problem. Alternatively, the appointment of a mentor might help to increase standards of quality and performance.

However, if work produced continues to be sub-standard then it may be necessary to give the employee or manager concerned formal notice of dismissal if there is no improvement within a specified time. Such action is vital for the rest of the team and the organisation as a whole.

Key points

* Sub-standard work needs to be addressed;

* Small errors can lead to incorrect decisions; and

* Unacceptable output requires management action.

Source: Carole Spiers, Special to

Credit: The writer is the CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, 'Show Stress Who's Boss!', is available in all good bookshops.