Leading people: Act now on unsatisfactory staff

Charities are wrong to tolerate poor performance and attitudes among staff.

The voluntary sector has 2 per cent of the UK workforce and accounts for a disproportionately high 6 per cent of employment tribunal cases. I don't find this surprising. We ignore poor behaviour or performance and then finally crack and sack people summarily, often badly.

More often, however, we endure for years people who simply should not be working for our organisations - either because they don't do their jobs well or their attitudes stink.

Either we're afraid to sack people because of irrational fear of repercussions, or we think that 'kind and caring' charities have to tolerate unsatisfactory employees.

Well, consider this. When you hang on to a negative person or a weak performer, there are consequences. You send a message to staff that poor performance and behaviour are acceptable.

Moreover, it forces other employees to carry an extra workload because they're covering for people who aren't delivering. You allow staff to be victims of a negative environment because of the behaviour of particular individuals. And you waste precious charity resources on unsatisfactory employees' salaries and time spent picking up the pieces. So what should you do?

Make sure you make it absolutely clear when you appoint someone what standards you expect, in both work and behaviour. It's also important to deal with transgressions immediately and truthfully. Many managers fluff such conversations by being over-sensitive and not being straight about what the issues are. If, when you have appointed someone, it becomes clear early on that they're not right for the organisation, get rid of them straight away. It's much harder if you delay.

What about those who have been moaning and underperforming for years? It's never too late. Use your disciplinary procedures. Tell them what the problem is, set clear targets for improvements, offer training and support, explain the consequences of not improving and then follow things through. Either they will get better or they won't. If they don't, you need to say goodbye. Pronto.

- Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change and a trustee of MedicAlert.

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