SUPPOSE a manager comes up to you and says “I know Lynne is bad at her job, but she’s a lovely person, so I’m transferring her to your team.”
How would you react?
I happen to know that this exact thing once occurred at a business that will remain nameless.
You notice that the manager said nothing about Lynne’s potential to be successful because her skill set was better suited to the new role. You did not read about her being a poor fit in her current role because of specific traits or characteristics she lacks to do the job well. You didn’t even read about the need to transfer her because of practical issues like Lynne’s need to work a different schedule.
What you saw is that she’s a lovely person. And I’m sure she is.
I’m sorry, folks, but that’s not a reason to move an employee.
The reason you move an employee to another team is because she’s a poor fit in the current role. Or it might be because of abilities Lynne has exhibited that lead the manager to think she might be better suited to another position. It’s all about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus, an idea that management expert Jim Collins writes about in his book “Good to Great.”
Collins also says to get people off the bus when appropriate. In the situation above, Lynne needed to leave the organization, but the soft-hearted manager wanted to keep her because she is lovely.
Instead of saying she’s lovely when someone needs to get off the bus, you might hear managers say something along these lines:
- “Her spouse is sick and she needs this job.”
- “I won’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I put someone out of work.”
- “My unit is understaffed as it is. If I fire Lynne, I just make it worse for everyone else.”
A manager’s job is to do what’s best for her organization. If moving Lynne will be a good thing because of particular skills she has that help the organization if she’s in a different role, that’s a good reason to move her. But if she’s just a poor employee—arriving late, spending all day on social media, not being a team player—then she needs to get off the bus.
In the world of Major League Baseball, you see players traded from one team, where perhaps they’ve been underperforming, to another. In many of these situations, the traded player, who is playing the same position and doing nothing different defensively or in the batter’s box, exceeds expectations for the new team. And then sometimes he performs in a similar manner for the new team as he did for the old. But he did not get traded, nor would he, just because he was a lovely person.
To all of you managers out there, please remember what your role is. It’s not to shuttle lovely people who don’t perform well between units. Get the employees like Lynne off your bus so they will find themselves in the correct seat on another bus.
In my experience, people won’t leave your bus if you don’t escort them off. Your organization will never achieve its potential with people like Lynne sitting on your bus, even if they are lovely.