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Firing Top But Toxic Performers — Additional Thoughts

by David Brock on August 12th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I posted Would You Fire Your Top Sales Performer.  It’s generated quite a conversation on the various different sites that it’s been posted.  I’ve been surprised by the number of comments basically saying, “If the person is producing sales, let them keep doing so, regardless of whether they are doing the CRM system.”  There were some very thoughtful responses talking about the business risk of firing your top producers.  The comments got me to thinking about Toxic Salespeople.

We’ve all seen them, these are the sales people who are good, maybe even great producers.  However, they create havoc in the organization and with customers.  They don’t comply with the standards, processes, and procedures, usually thinking they are above those, sometimes saying, “Stay out of my way, let me just keep bringing in the orders.”  We’ve seen the tremendous morale impact they have on the rest of the organization, sometimes treating people poorly, certainly not acting as part of the team.  Yet they exist in every organization, we let them go on as long as they bring in sales because we can’t stand the risk of losing those sales if we fire them.

But what’s the real issue here?  The Toxic Sales person is just a symptom, the real issue is bad sales management.  Toxic employees develop because we allow them to develop.  Toxic employees develop because sales managers don’t address behavioral and attitudinal problem early on.  Managers don’t step up to the plate, but reinforce this bad behavior through negligence.

Managers who don’t step up to the plate aren’t doing the Toxic Sales person any favors.  They aren’t coaching and correcting the person to make them better, more effective sales people.  100% of the time when I have encountered a Toxic Sales person, I have found their behaviors and attitudes seriously limit their performance, changing those improve performance.  Even if they are a top producer, they are under-performing their potential.

Managers who don’t step up to the plate aren’t doing the rest of the team any favors.  How do you respect a manager who doesn’t address problem issues?  Why should you listen to that person?  How are they going to help you address the “tough issues.”

So do you fire the Toxic Sales person.  Maybe, only if that person does not correct their behavior and attitudes after powerful coaching.  But you do fire the manager who allows Toxic people to exist in the organization and consistently lets these situations persist.  After all, do we want leaders who don’t address performance issues and problems head on?

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