You’ve met them and you recognized the tell-tale signs almost immediately; the apparent lack of interest and focus, the extended breaks and lunch periods, the internet surfing that doesn’t seem work-related whatsoever. I refer to the people who have lost their enthusiasm for what they once were passionate about; the ones who everyone around them knows should move on, but who for reasons of their own just keep hanging on.
It’s ironic that what such a person believes they are hiding so well from others is so blatantly obvious to anyone who spends any time at all with them. From the moment they park their car or get off the bus, you can see it there in their body language. You know, the casual saunter in to the office not a minute too soon or possibly even a few minutes past one’s starting time – on a regular basis. There’s no ambition to arrive a moment earlier than necessary, for there are 7 or more long hours in front of them to do whatever mundane tasks that come their way.
Of the real work that they are paid to do, there’s a noticeable drop in both quality and quantity. Frequent walks around the office, conversations with other employees, nipping out for a walk, doing their personal online shopping on company time or talking with people on the phone which appears to be personal and not professional – well, you get the idea.
So why do they hang around? Why not just chuck it in and get on with pursuing their retirement, a hobby or investing themselves in pursuing other lines of work they would be better suited for? Good questions!
For some of course it’s the pension. The longer one stays employed the more they are building up some company or government pension perhaps. Maybe they’ve looked ahead at their looming retirement and figured that whatever pension they receive will be based on their 5 best years of income, and so it makes sense to them to keep showing up for another 3 years to maximize that benefit for the duration of their retired years. Those 3 years seem like a prison sentence.
Thing is, it’s not just the employee now who is underperforming. Their quality of work has the potential to cause others to cut their own efficiencies to match the senior worker. After all, if he or she is dogging it and underperforming but from all appearances isn’t in any danger of losing their job, some others might feel inclined to do likewise.
Somehow though these senior staff seem to have immunity to discipline; well it can look that way to their fellow employees. After all they reason, everyone knows the quantity of work has dropped because others have had to pick up the slack. The fact that they keep coming in every day and underperforming would seem to show that nothing has been said to them or if it has, it’s fallen on deaf ears.
It could be a whole combination of things going on in that person’s professional and personal life that’s caused this drop in production and plain malaise. Personal disappointment that they didn’t advance in the organization as they once imagined; lack of recognition for what they’ve achieved, jealousy over others accomplishments they see as their juniors. Outside of the workplace, there could be pressures such as strife at home, health or financial problems, a mortgage that won’t be paid off 5 years after retiring, more financial strains caused by changes in family size, new grandkids, car payments, promised exotic trips that will put pressure on one’s savings. Who knows?
Weighing a persons contributions in the past to their present value is a tough position to be in for management. An employee might have the broad respect of the entire workforce for what they’ve added to a company or team, but the flip side of that coin is, “What have you done for us lately?” After all, businesses must stay competitive and their workers diligent to compete. Dead wood on the payroll at any level is a liability some organizations just can’t tolerate.
Of course other workers would be wise to focus not on the performance of others but rather on doing their own jobs to the best they are able. When it becomes problematic is when the actions, (or lack of actions) of one impact on the performance of others. So a Customer Service Representative who isn’t getting back to their client base, resulting in increased workloads of co-workers dealing with angry and frustrated callers who feel ignored becomes a major problem. Those frustrated customers might just take their business elsewhere and even more damaging, spread the word.
Know when it’s time to go and go out on top. Sounds like a reasonable plan when your highly productive, retirement is 18 years away and you’re still working with drive and commitment to excellence. Just about anyone can see this in others. Be it an élite athlete who’s lost their lustre or a musician that can’t reach the notes they once hit with dependability, there comes a time when … well, it’s time. Not many can hang around and still perform.
Look, you have to do what is right for you based on your own personal situation. However, the same holds true for employers with businesses to run. It won’t do you any good to be forced out. That could leave you bitter and resentful; and it’s likely you don’t want that to be your legacy.