27 September 2023

What a drag: Underperforming workers slash team performance

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Valerie Bolden-Barrett* says a new survey suggests no amount of skills can make up for the harm a handful of underperforming workers can do to a team.

Photo: Tero Vesalainen

Just one or two underperforming workers can jeopardise an entire team’s success, according to a survey by leadership training company VitalSmarts.

When a worker fails to prioritise project tasks, misses deadlines and generally underperforms, teams can lose as much as 24 per cent of their productivity, the company said.

In other survey findings, 94 per cent of respondents said teammates “lose track of things or miss deadlines because they fail to capture commitments and ideas.”

Almost the same amount said a couple of teammates spent too much time on the wrong priority.

Survey results showed that around 40 per cent of managers make similar mistakes.

“We need to shift our thinking about what makes a valuable team member,” VitalSmarts VP of Research David Maxfield said in a news release.

“We often hire or select people for a team because of their experience or technical skills.”

“However, this research shows no amount of knowledge or skills can make up for the harm a handful of poor productivity practices will have on team morale and results.”

As teams strive to meet deadlines, it’s likely one or two workers will become overwhelmed and fail to perform as expected, VitalSmarts said.

Stress due to work overload, personal problems or health issues might be the cause, other research has postulated.

In that case, employers may need to find ways to support struggling employees and recalibrate their workloads, if necessary.

Many of the problems the survey pinpointed relate to soft skills.

Workers who struggle with time management, meeting deadlines and keeping appointments likely need soft-skill training to improve their performance.

While a “dream team” comprising perfectly capable workers is ideal, most people have a particular skill or expertise that sets them apart from everybody else.

It follows that performance management tactics with a “one-size-fits-all” approach will fail employees needing direction.

Managers and team leaders must acknowledge each worker’s strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly to get the best performance outcomes.

* Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a business writer and content specialist and contributor to HR Dive.

This article first appeared at www.hrdive.com.

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