In a very famous book on business, the author argued through his research that the most important action that a business executive could do is get the right people on the bus. Initially, it’s far more important than where the bus is going. With the right people, you will get excellence whatever the destination. From my experience, that is terrific advice. However, getting the right people on the bus is the (relatively) easy part of the job. You interview, take referrals, talk to references and make the best hires. The very difficult part is getting the wrong people off the bus. And this difficulty, this reluctance to terminate employees, is often the root cause of poor performing businesses. And the root cause of all the other related bad news that comes with poor performance. Here’s why.
There may be little that is more important to the productivity and success of a business, school, or not-for-profit than the culture of that enterprise. Culture can be constantly improving, or it can wane and become a problem. Poor performing employees, negative employees and cynical employees destroy successful business culture in thought, word and deed every day. A business executive that fails to immediately deal with that situation is leading the rest of the business to poor performance or worse. It can mean reassigning their seat on the bus to a better match, dealing with the root cause of the negativity, or, ultimately, termination.
Studies show that one negative comment from what we call ‘saboteurs’ will lower the emotions and productivity of a normal employee until they have had six positive interactions during a day. Constant negativity from one ‘saboteur’ in a department will lower everyone’s expectations and work performance. Yet, executives everywhere tend to gloss over, put up with and bargain with the wrong people on the bus.
Business culture is supremely important. Negative people ruin good culture. And the reality of people and personal interaction is that it’s simply easier to leave them on the bus.
Only the truly great companies get the right people on the bus and handle the very difficult and painful work of dropping the wrong ones off at the next stop.