Bring Out Your Dead – my suggested solution

What to do?

Most organisations have a minimum of 5% and maximum of 15% Dead Wood (DW).

Managers/Leaders know who they are in their own teams, and the managers/leaders who are DW can be determined through engagement surveys (people hate working for a leader who is DW), and if you don’t get rid of the leaders who fall into this category you will start losing the good people who work for them.

HR must drive through a fast-track process that is fit for purpose – it identifies and gets rid of people in the fastest possible way while still being legal. It balances speed with legality. HR does this by putting in place that process,  and educating/guiding/telling managers to do their job – the line manager  takes ownership of the “who is DW decision” and is 100% honest with these people at times such as Performance Review – it’s no good giving people an “average” and then starting them on the process.

Organisations are also rushing out a “Company Way,” a set of actions, attitudes and behaviours that are mandatory, so no-one can hide behind the “no-one told me” excuse. This will be covered next week.

How will you know if you are being successful?

You will comply with the absolute minimum timeframe from first warning to out the door.

Your volume of tribunals will increase and you will lose some – live with it, your reputation will be enhanced, not damaged.

Your line managers will start to do their jobs (and reviews) properly.

You will save a fortune in not paying people so much in settlements.

Your best people’s morale will increase, because you will stop rewarding the wrong behaviours.

The process will be transparent.

Your head count will reduce by around 10%.

You will do less, better, with fewer people.

With thanks to Nadine Taylor.

With my love and best wishes

P.S. I would like to hear about your experiences here (especially if you disagree!)

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  • Hi David,

    I’m not normally one to comment on your articles, but this one hit a nerve. I absolutely agree with the idea of trimming the dead wood, but it needs to be done with great care and attention. I have worked in an environment where people ‘leave to persue other interests’ on a weekly basis. Rarely is it done well. Within IT, its obvious when someone is being ‘let go’ as all their accounts are suspended however the line from managers is typically ‘they are on leave’. Everyone knows what it means, and rumour runs wild as nobody is willing to say what the real reason is. I broke that trend, and whenever I moved anyone on, I was open and honest with everyone about the reasons why. I made true decisions however there were members of my team who felt this was unfair and led a rebellion direct to my manager, who confronted me with page after page of lies and hearsay. During the meeting, I asked him why he was doing this, and if he believed even one word of it, why didn’t he just ask me to leave. Thankfully, he did. A few months later, he went through the same process with the people who concocted the lies.

    The moral in the story?

    Someone always has a reason for doing something, know what it is, and it will lead you to better decisions.

  • You sometimes have to be cruel to be kind and this is one of those situations. You cannot afford to carry passengers.

    However, I think you need to be supportive for a while after the dead wood has left to ensure they find something appropriate to their skills unless they are total wasters.

  • Hi, David!

    As always, I find myself agreeing with you. The danger here is the type of management you have in a company. It’s a two-edged sword.
    As a manager myself in a large banking group, I have many times had DW in my various teams, some of whom dragged me to the Union and threatened with grievances every time I tried in their 121s to say I wasn’t happy with their performance and even substantiate with proof and KPIs. However, because I was “only” a Team manager, I had no word to say in the end because the senior management team would invariably back out and let the person stay. moreover, they would change the DW’s rating to “Good Performer” because they’d come up with something like “I didn’t get sufficient training” etc. How do you think the rest of my team felt when they worked their socks off for a “Good Performer” and someone they “carried” was also awarded the same rating, therefore same bonus and payrise? Yet I had no power to do anything about this. Moreover, I was sent to be the messenger to these people but the ones taking the decision would not speak to the disgruntled colleagues.

    At the other end of the spectrum, I have known cases where it was on purpose made impossible for people to achieve what they were asked to do, being effectively set up to fail so that they could then be rated down and “performance-manaed”, to the point where it was “will or skill” and invariably it was put down to will rather than the inadequate training and individual circumstances (a colleague for instance had some mild learning difficulties which were never taken into account ).

    So there is a danger that a swifter process can, like miscarriages of justice, affect an “innocent” person. I think the problem in this country is not calling a spade a spade, excessive political correctness and exaggerating / “creatively interpreting” the Data Protection Act. I agree with aspects of both comments made above by IT Guy and Steve.

  • davidtaylor

    Thank you – IT Guy (love that name!) you showed a transparency that is rare and people find very uncomfortable, Steve you make a very good point about helping people to exit into something else (a much better investment than just giving them money) and Team Manager (another great sign on name) thank you for covering the two extremes so clearly. David

  • I have been that dead wood in an organisation and it was because I had no feeling for who i was working for. I was going through the motions.
    How did the company get rid of me? They didn’t, and couldn’t. I went of my own accord in the end because i was frankly bored with the situation I found myself in.
    Sometimes you become dead wood because you are in a culture that you don’t get on with or believe in. I didn’t think it was going to be like that when I joined and was an enthusiastic member of the team.
    So it is also down to the company to ensure that dead wood does not materialise from nowhere. As in my case.

  • Admitting to being such a thing in a company is brave.
    There are people who can see themselves for what they are and intelligent enough to know how to deal with that situation.
    You appear to be one of them.

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