Is the grass always greener

Green Elephants Garden Sculptures

I often see something like this in organisations:

A new staff member is brought in to do good work. She shows promise at first, but her star fades. As it fades, the employee feels a bit more of the boss’s breath on their neck.

Instead of upping their game and reengaging fully, they start into a downward spiral of, “nothing is ever good enough,” of “yes, but this is also wrong…”, or “I didn’t know I was responsible for that [when they were doing it in week 2]” and other such lame pushback.

(We’re ignoring the infinite possible reasons here of motivation, culture, teamwork, organisation, engagement, communication, etc.)

This obviously gets noticed by other team members, as they want teammates pulling as hard on the ores as they are. Dead weight isn’t welcome on the boat, but few actually say that much about it as unrest is often more subtle than that. Nonetheless, it raises eyebrows and leaves the team asking questions of you, the manager.

There are several choices here as a manager/leader:
Take short shift and dismiss said person, sending a cold message about under performance.

Demand more. Coldly lay out the facts of the position in what most would see as a ‘shape up or ship out’ conversation. The character of the person will decide the outcome – did they really want the role, can they recognise they need to change?

Try and coach a better performance. If the person is a fairly weak performer this will take a lot of arm-around-the-shoulder work from you to help set them up correctly before they can navigate the road on their own, if at all. If successful, this coaching is an investment of your time and effort (at the detriment of other areas of the business), if it fails it’s been a cost (ouch).

Sit on your hands and live with life, and productivity, as it is. Some things come out in the wash don’t they? No, that’s a cop out and not your style though, right?

In a lot of these cases I’d say the employee is likely to leave regardless of the action you take because something’s changed in their mindset and your organisation simply isn’t the one they want to do great work in. So they often go and work doubly hard elsewhere. After all, it’s a new environment so they need to get up to speed quick sharp with the politics of the place. With the working regime, with who does what, with the office loudmouth, the IT infrastructure, the client base, etc, etc.

Employment law has changed this year in that you cannot raise a claim for unfair dismissal until an employee has worked a continuous 24 months (up from 12 months previously).  That makes you very expendable indeed, in that you could be employee of the month for 23 consecutive months but if business dips and the headcount needs to shrink, then you can easily but cut to save PAYE.

My very basic point is why go somewhere new? It’s likely that starting again leaves you with far less job security and all you really needed to do was press reset and work harder/stronger/better at your current role. It was the one you interviewed for and felt good about accepting a while back, remember?

Digging in looks difficult on a Monday morning but it’s often far easier than the green grass of the fresh start.

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