Do the Team a Favor-Get Rid of the Loser

If there is one thing that sends my blood pressure into orbit quicker than getting pulled over by a cop, it’s managers who say, “But I can’t get rid of them.”  Um, to quote the recent presidential campaign, YES YOU CAN and to add to it, YES YOU SHOULD!

Robert Weinberg’s book on cancer, “One Renegade Cell” he emphasizes how many bizarre things must happen for a cancer cell to be produced, implanted and eventually, silently, and mysteriously grow to such proportions that it threatens the very existence of its host. With this in mind, we will briefly explore the various phases which neoplasms go through on their way to becoming a life threatening malignancy to your organization.

Before getting into what you should do, let’s get into what you should look for.  Think over your team for a moment.  Make a T-Chart.  On one side of the chart, write down the list of people on your team whom you would lose sleep over if they turned a resignation in tomorrow.  On the other side, write down a list of those on your team you find yourself secretly smiling at the prospect of them resigning.  Now that you know the who…

The truth is, team members who are not engaged are a drag on momentum.  Either through vocal disapproval of progress or the gregarious, often secretive, act of digging their heels in against forward movement, these team members drag any successful effort you plan into the ground.  I know from experience as a performer, I want my leader to rid the team of such people and when they don’t, it makes me question, “So why am I working so hard when obviously it’s not a real mandate?”

On the flipside, I have also been one of those against progress.  Looking back to a job early in my career, I was one of those who needed to be drop kicked off the cliff.  Now, I was a performer.  Not being cocky, but I was the top performer on my team from a quantitative point of view.  However, when things did not go my way, my attitude was cancerous.  I was the one who secretly plotted against plans I did not buy into and even at times, made it a point to let everyone know vocally my disapproval.  Looking back, I now understand and am grateful I was pushed out.  Although I resigned, (to have the last word) the reality was, I pushed myself out through my own actions.  To be honest, it was the best learning lesson I had professionally. 

In most cases, the cancer cells in your team do not even realize how cancerous they are.  There are three good reasons for this:

  • In most cases, they are completely oblivous to their own fault, in large part due to their obsession with finding fault in everything else.
  • Those members on your team rarely confront the cancer cells, choosing rather to take the path of least resistance, thereby, allowing the cancer to slowly spread.
  • Partially your fault.  Plain and simple.  As the leader of the group, you have to confront this cancer and either 1. Treat the illness through coaching 2. Cut it out all together.  There are three options for a coaching strategy to consider for these types: coach them up, coach them over (find a better fit for their skill set), or coach them out.

Remember, bizarre things must happen for a cancer cell to be produced, implanted and eventually, silently, and mysteriously grow to such proportions that it threatens the very existence of its host.  We have addressed three of these “bizzarre things” in this post.  In the next post, we will talk more on your three coaching strategies to address the cancer of the team. 

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.

For my professional resume, click here

3 thoughts on “Do the Team a Favor-Get Rid of the Loser

  1. Trent –

    EXCELLENT Post – your personal story is shared by many!

    You are right on with the fact that if you don’t address the “problem child,” then the rest of the team feels that your actions and words are worthless, and it allows them the opportunity to go often on their on as well. I have experienced first hand and it can get out of control very fast…the disease spreads every so slowly, and at times, you think you have cured it. But it still is out there and creeps up when every the “problem child” feels wronged and wants to “correct an injustice!” (Amazing how they can see a problem in others, but god forbid they should look at themselves!)

    I will add that “just ignoring” the problem child and hoping that it will go away is definitely, definitely not the answer – you only allow it to grow more and more – and you fool yourself that it will “take care of itself!”

    As you state in the beginning…RID YOURSELF OF THE PROBLEM…You and your team will be better off!

    Excellent Post

    Thanks Trent


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