Employing a Dead Horse?

Sometimes you have that person on your team who isn’t really up to speed. Who isn’t living up to your expectations and constantly coming short. He/she knows it, the colleagues know it and deep down inside you know it too. Unfortunately, his/her performance is not zero. It is more a grey zone of good and bad days, with the good days being more “not-so-bad” days, too few and far between.

In our experience, the hard cases are the ones where performance is not really terrible and not really good either. This may cloud the fact that things will never work as well as you may hope or wish for. You are “beating a dead horse”. Or employing one to be more precise.

When it comes to beating a dead horse only one strategy works: Dismount. The sooner the better. Acting as if the horse is still alive, just a bit off, or simply resting is delusional. Common evasive tactics include: getting a bigger whip, hiring consultants who specializes in dead horses, calling your network to learn how they beat dead horses, lowering standards enough to a level where even dead horses can perform, or give the dead horse additional training.

There are of course the rare cases where this is not a dead horse – it’s just someone you can’t motivate, either because the job is not the right fit or you are not the right boss for this particular person.

Regardless of whether it’s just a poor match or a truly dead horse the remedy is the same: Dismount. Nobody shines when they know they’ve been labeled a dead horse. And they know. Letting people go is never easy and shouldn’t be. But sometimes it’s the lesser evil and, if done respectfully, it will help the remains of your team and yourself, not to mention the person involved who gets a fresh start somewhere else without unfortunate labels.