STRATEGY

How to Weed Out Apathetic Employees

Turnaround specialist Glen Blickenstaff, in a five-part series of articles, explains how to turn a failing company into a breakout success. This week he reveals how to uncover dead-weight employees.
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Your company is failing–heading toward bankruptcy or even closing its doors forever. This is your final chance to get the company back on track. A turnaround is slightly different from a start-up but has many of the same components. In this five-part series of articles, I’ll show you how to execute a successful turnaround, using a hypothetical company with no specific product or service.

The first week is about leadership and communication, we measure objectives in hours and days, not months and years. It is also about management and setting the tempo. Start with a directive approach. This is not my normal style but very important. There has likely been some sort of leadership vacuum; assume everyone has slid to level two on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which is safety and what they seek is a leader. Let’s get to it.

Day One (24 hours)

Start by providing the employees with a 24-hour deadline to return a view of their job and the organizations top three objectives from their perspective. Try to preclude collusion in developing the list. You can do this by establishing a meeting and requiring them to complete a survey while you observe, although there is benefit to giving them 24 hours.

If there is no collusion, you will have nearly as many company goals as you do surveyed employees. This is to be expected. Review your surveys and compile the results. If someone failed to provide the survey on time then have an individual meeting and find out why. If apathy is the reason then inform them this was their last day as they cannot stay.  Make sure to tie someone else in and do it legally but failure to follow instruction is a good reason to terminate. If you need their corporate memory then make sure you allow enough time to get information on projects before you show them the door. Two reasons for this are:

  1. First and foremost people need to understand that when you ask for something you expect to get it. There are always valid reasons that someone could fail to deliver on time. Don’t be a jerk but apathy is no excuse.
  2. These people have probably been a drain on the organization anyway and you are sending a signal of what is and is not tolerated. Those who have been frustrated by these employees are probably the good ones and will respond in a positive way. Those that get upset have probably predetermined their fate.

Observe everything and everyone. When they arrive at work, what they do and who they interact with. For those you dismiss don’t allow the break room banter that throws them under the bus.

Last updated: Dec 22, 2011

GLEN BLICKENSTAFF | Columnist | CEO of The Iron Door company

Glen Blickenstaff is the CEO of The Iron Door company, which makes high-end doors and windows. Glen has a track record of turning around and managing retail, building and financial companies.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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