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Guest Blogger

by Jill Christensen

This past Saturday morning I was in Party City at 8 a.m. purchasing a cake topper for an important celebration in my life. As I approached the cash register, I heard an employee say to the manager, “Karen just walked out.” The manager replied, “What do you mean Karen just walked out?” The employee responded, “Karen quit and she didn’t have the courage to tell you, so she asked me to tell you.”

My first instinct was to tell the manager about my book, which would help him improve his culture at the Party City store on Quebec Street in Denver. Then I quickly remembered that timing is everything in life and refrained from adding to his woes. I also considered the possibility that maybe the store culture wasn’t the issue. Maybe Karen was the issue.

Maybe Karen was a poor cultural fit. Maybe Karen doesn’t have the necessary skills to work effectively at Party City. Maybe Karen has a bad attitude, because although I do a lot of talking about how dysfunctional many business cultures are, the truth is that sometimes it’s not the organization’s fault. Sometimes it’s the employee who needs fixing.

When this is the case, it’s the manager’s responsibility to identify who these employees are, put them on a Performance Improvement Plan, and do whatever they can to help people become the workers that the organization needs them to be. As difficult as this may be to hear, the fact that someone is nice does not give them a free hall pass. In order for your organization to soar, you must get the right person in every chair. And if this means terminating an employee, so be it.

Jill, What Can I Do? If you are a CEO or HR leader, encourage managers in your organization to identify people who are ‘issues’ and work with them to improve. If you are a manager, follow the counsel above. Your team or organization will never be great if you allow people to stay who don’t earn their chair every day. Real leaders make tough choices and decisions every day – it’s what sets them apart from everyone else. Now go shake things up. That’s what leaders do.

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