• Dawn Russell

3 Skills Trade Business Owners Must Master to Manage Poor Performers

Updated: Jul 29, 2019

Bored and indifferent construction worker

Most owners of trade businesses don’t fire poor performers.


Or if they do, they leave it far too long to act.


Yet a trade business can’t afford poor performers. Every trade needs all hands on deck to survive, let alone thrive.


So why is it that so many trade owners choose to tolerate poor performers?


It’s a big question and one with many answers.


Sometimes it’s because they haven’t set clear boundaries in the first place.


Other times it’s because they avoid challenging staff when they’ve crossed the line.


Sometimes it’s because they doubt themselves. “Is it really that bad?” “Is it me?” “Maybe they’ll improve if I just give them a bit more …?”


Other times it’s because they’ve developed a sense of friendship with the person. They feel guilty about wanting them out. “It’s Christmas.” “They’ve got a young family.” They’ve got a huge mortgage.” “They’re not well and they’ve been with me for years.”


Sometimes it’s because they don’t know how to have the difficult conversation. Or they fear it. They don’t want a “confrontation.” They don’t want to risk losing control.


Other times it’s because they can’t really pin any major “wrong-doing” on the poor performer. There are just subtle symptoms - facial gestures, muttered words.


Sometimes it’s because the thought of replacing the person is worse than keeping them. “What if I get someone who’s no better?” “What if it’s me?” “What if I can’t find anyone suitable quickly enough?”


Other times it’s because the person has been allowed to assume disproportionate control and ownership of a role and holds too much insider knowledge. Should that knowledge exit, there is no other source to plug the gap.



Whatever the reason for tolerating poor performance, we have to understand that there are associated consequences, the significance of which most trade owners fail to recognise.


On the surface, poor performance means the job is not being done as well as it could be, but deeper than that, the implications of poor performance ripple throughout the business.

It creates resentment among other staff. “How come Peter can get away with behaviour like that?” “It’s not fair!”


It breeds lower standards. “Why should I bother to maintain standards when clearly no one cares about them, judging from the way he turns a blind eye to Peter’s behaviour?”

It diminishes respect. “Surely he can see what’s going on here, but he’s too piss weak to do anything about it.” “She hasn’t got the guts to say anything.”


It can lead to a staff rebellion. Other staff start to emulate the poor behaviour – talking back, making snide remarks, rolling their eyes, showing up late for meetings – generally being disrespectful until the business starts to wobble like a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel. When the proportion of staff working against the business is greater than the proportion of the staff working for the business, there’s mutiny afoot.


Managing poor performance is not easy; but it is simple, if you follow a few rules and build a few essential skills. Read about Skill #1 - The Skill of Self Mastery - here.

#workstandards #tipsfortrades

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