Colleagues Who Perform But Are Toxic Must Go
The Performance / Attitude Matrix is widely known and shared. Most leaders know it by heart, but here’s a review. Team members are evaluated along the axises of performance and attitude, with a Great and Bad for each.
In one quadrant, we have those colleagues with Great Performance and Great Attitude. These are our best players. They carry the culture, collaborate with others, and get the work done. Life would be roses if everyone on the team met that high bar. The primary challenge for leaders is to retain these superstars.
Even in lean times where talent of any kind is hard to find, leaders of all stripes eschew those colleagues who demonstrate Bad Performance and Bad Attitude. Life is just too short to invest the time and energy into colleagues who disappoint and then thumb their nose on the way to another coffee break. Dispensing with these degenerates quickly is the job of every good leader.
Leaders commonly have a soft spot for those team members with Great Attitude and Bad Performance. The best leaders make it their job to elevate the skills of those positive team players who aren’t yet performing. Being objective and setting realistic goals and milestones for these colleagues to prove themselves is the critical task. Given time and encouragement, many of these well-intentioned folks up their game and move to the Great Performance quadrant. Those who can’t get there eventually have to be replaced.
In the last quadrant, we have those team members with Great Performance and Bad Attitude. Leaders are most challenged by these colleagues. Because they perform, leaders often excuse the negative effects these contributors have on the work climate and team culture. The fear of hurting results prevents leaders from confronting these colleagues and holding them accountable to the toxicity they manufacture across the team.
Leaders who tolerate divisive attitudes in exchange for results undermine team morale and effectiveness over the longterm. Within the team, these uncooperative and cynical colleagues are radioactive. Everyone who gets exposed to them gets sick.
High performing teams can never absorb the pain of a belligerent colleague. Results sustain the team, but team morale keeps everyone engaged and on-board. Wise leaders don’t convince themselves to turn a blind eye to productive team members who sabotage the team with a negative attitude. The hard work of leadership never ends.