As we see more organizations announce reductions and layoffs, we are seeing more CEOs use poor seller performance as an excuse for the layoffs. One CEO said, “We’ve identified more than 100 people on our sales team who have consistently missed expectations. Simply put, a significant percentage of our sales force has been repeatedly underperforming based on measurable performance targets and critical KPIs. That’s obviously a problem. But it’s one in this environment with a particularly available and actionable solution. We are now in the process of quickly rotating out those members of our team who have been underperforming.”
I recognize the unfortunate need to reduce spending in tough times. It’s easier to blame the performance of your people than to put the responsibility where it belongs–management failure.
What struck me about this statement is that, apparently, for some time this management team has not taken action on poor performance. They accepted this unacceptable performance for a long period of time!
There is no excuse for this, it’s simply management malpractice!
At every level, managers are responsible for maximizing the performance of each person in the organization. There are a number of tools available to help managers understand and address performance issues–more skills training and development, coaching, mentoring, and more. And if, after these methods fail, the individual is unable to perform as expected, managers must move that person into a role where the individual can meet performance expectations–which may mean moving them out of the company.
But, apparently, with executives like the individual quoted, it’s easier to ignore these bad performers, taking no action until things like an economic downturn force them to do something. And when action is taken, the blame is put on the poor performers, not where it belongs—on leadership that failed in its responsibilities to their people, their organization, and their shareholders!
Think of what this mismanagement meant, over an apparently extended period of time. Managers refused to accept responsibility for maximizing performance. They consciously accepted underperformance, taking no actions. As a result, they underperformed their potential–potentially squandering millions in revenues, while compensating and accepting poor performance.
Think, further, if management had fulfilled their responsibilities, refusing to let performance issues linger, refusing to accept poor performance from a “significant percentage of the sales force.” Perhaps, they might have entered this economic downturn in a stronger position. Perhaps, they might have been strong enough to avoid reductions, or in the least they may have been able to reduce the number of people–and families–impacted.
Instead, we see people, poor performers, blamed for management irresponsibility. Management failure to do what they are responsible and accountable to do.
Layoffs/Riff’s are always tragic. They are, despite all best efforts, sometimes unavoidable.
But we must be clear. They are always the result of management/leadership failure. Maybe, it’s an unexpected disruption in markets and economies–it’s on management, even though they may have been able to do little to anticipate this. Maybe, it’s bad strategies, poor execution, failure on the part of the organization to achieve it’s goals–that’s on management, as well. They are the people responsible for identifying and addressing these issues, yet they fail to do so.
And, always, it’s the lower level people in the organization that bear the brunt of these failures (along with their families). Too often, the managers responsible for this failure continue in their jobs, suffering few consequences to their failure. And one wonders, have they changed, or will they persist in not fulfilling that for which they are accountable.