What to Do When You Inherit a Non-Performing Team

You just received a promotion into a management position. Everyone is wishing you warm congratulations, but deep inside, you’re both disappointed and worried. And it’s not because you didn’t want the promotion. Oh, no, it’s because you learned that you would be leading a department staffed with a mix of people who perform at various levels, and who have never really had to answer to their leader for non-performance.

non performing team employees at workThe former manager was released because his department, which is now yours, was underperforming, unprofitable and unaccountable He didn’t set expectations and didn’t hold many of them accountable because they were friends first and employees fourth or fifth. Coming in late and leaving early for -non-business related reasons was common. Employee reviews were done over a burger and a Budweiser. In other words, the staff pretty much did what they wanted. You think you’re screwed. The staff barely knows you, you’re charged with turning things around and they lost their best friend who supplied them with a free ride and a fat paycheck.

You have several options:

1. Go in as the new sheriff in town and lay down martial law. Knowing that the department is of employees who have not worked for a strong leader that sets expectations and holds everyone accountable, you re-interview everyone for their position and place each on probation. From that point forward, you corporate rules, making sure everyone is there promptly at eight and puts in an honest day’s work.
2. On your first day, you take the entire department off site, get to know each one of them and work on building relationships with them. You start to build trust and win their respect as the new manager. Next, you’ll ask them about their roles and have an open dialogue about why they think the department wasn’t productive or profitable. You become an Active Listener and an observer of how everyone interacts with one another and how they feel about their role and the company.
3. You place blind ads on monster.com, re-staff the whole department behind closed doors, bring out the broom and start from square one.

Which option sounds the best?

You may be pleasantly surprised that when you talk to the team, you learn that they crave leadership and probably didn’t enjoy the lack of structure and direction. You may also learn that the employees didn’t have much respect for their former manager who didn’t feel the need to run a tight ship. There is always the chance that you inherited a large group of people who resist your good intentions to do what’s best for the company by setting expectations and holding everyone accountable. And in that case you may have no other option but to start replacing those team members who choose not to cooperate, creating an “Us” versus “Them” culture.

However, the fact is, people who enjoy working for, and respect their leader are much happier at work, and thus, much more productive which adds to the bottom line.

Active Listening, conflict resolution, I-Messages and other strong communication skills will come in handy to salvage morale and re-motivate people to do what they were hired to do. Practicing these skills consistently will help you bond with all employees, quickly earn their respect, and motivate everyone on your team to give 110 percent every day in every way.

It will make your life so much easier.


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