Philie Group Blog

Why Is It So Hard to Make Difficult People Decisions?
By Mike Philie

What do you do with folks that aren’t right for the job, and don’t want your help to fix it? Maybe it’s an individual who has been a loyal employee and has moved up through progressively important roles. I recently shared some ideas about how to increase the effectiveness of your team by helping your people play to their potential. The hypothesis of that scenario was that you had the right people on your team, but that they needed, and wanted help in honing their individual capabilities.

This group finds themselves over their ski’s and are ill-prepared, or not interested in taking on the opportunity they find themselves in. They usually aren’t belligerent or disrespectful, just an impediment in the forward path of the business. And this isn’t for those folks who have temporary personal issues that are affecting their performance. The problem for most leaders is that there isn’t a manual that spells out how to handle these situations.

Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about business KPIs. All the cool companies have them, and for good reason. They act as the dashboard of your business, telling you how well it’s performing. What’s missing though, is the manual that tells you what to do and when to do it should a light start flashing or a gauge act erratically. Okay, let’s get back to your team. You usually know who’s up to the challenge and who’s not but aren’t always sure how to handle it. A manual would come in handy when someone is either out of their element or starts playing by their own rules. A manual that spells out what to say to make things better.

What’s that expression, “When people show you how they really are, believe them.” Often, you’ll get behavior warnings way before you think about taking any action. In fact, some leaders act as an enabler at this point. They work to justify the staff member’s attitude, or aptitude. Most leaders are nice folks, or at least they strive to be. They always see the good in everyone – and that’s not a bad thing. But they are trying to lead a thriving business that needs everyone onboard. Leaders need to act with the folks that are beyond “coaching to improvement.”

Again, this is for team members that have gone past the remedial stage. The individual still may talk a good game, but actions speak louder than words. By not having that difficult conversation, or taking any action, you are telling the rest of the team that this level of performance is acceptable. And don’t think that the other members of the team are not aware of what’s going on. They are all waiting to see how you’ll handle it.

Deciding how to handle these situations isn’t easy. You may often turn to senior members of your team for their insight. You could also refer to any assessments that person may have completed for clarity or guidance. There’s no harm in getting all the information you can to make the best path forward. And while you don’t take these lightly, at some point you will just need to decide. Prolonging it rarely makes it easier. In fact, if this leads to a separation with the employee, I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, maybe I should have waited a bit longer.”

You always would prefer to spend time growing the business and creating opportunities for your team. That’s the fun part. The reality is that it won’t be fun if you don’t resolve these people issues. When, not if, you must make this type of decision, be aware of the consequences of making it or not making it and be prepared to move the ball down the field either way.

Reviewing this on a regular basis will help determine what level of additional engagement or direction your team could benefit from. You’ve got a great, loyal group of folks that work with you. Help them continue to learn and grow alongside the growth of the business. Don’t let them fall behind. You’ll benefit from it, you’ll have a more engaged workforce, and your customers will appreciate it. Good luck and keep at it.

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic direction, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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