Doers know what they are being held accountable for and are able to determine for themselves how best to follow their leader. Underachievers seldom understand their own actions; so do not expect them to give much constructive thought to what their leader has in mind.
So, you might ask, why waste time on dysfunctional employees? Why not leave them alone and concentrate solely on functional people? That is a workable strategy as long as everyone’s job remains the same and the organization never changes. You may recall from the introduction in Chapter 6 that dysfunction is most easily exposed when an organization undergoes change. Here is why that happens.
Ineffective managers view change as an opportunity to get rid of the “dead wood.” Research into the after-effects of organization-wide changes, such as an expansion or a downsizing, point to a chilling conclusion: dead wood floats. When dysfunctional employees hear about an upcoming change, they immediately focus on keeping their job.
Doers have external networks that keep them in touch with job openings. They also have the confidence to look beyond their current employer. As the competition gets wind of their availability, the best people are often hired away just at the time when they are most needed. Underachievers lack the confidence to look elsewhere, so they are not likely to receive an outside job offer.
As the change begins to take shape, a shadow competition unfolds between the functional and dysfunctional employees. The term shadow is used because management is usually in the dark about what is really happening. There are several behaviors that will tip you off to when and why such a competition is taking place.
Dysfunctional employees will stand together in pointing out the faults and failures or their functional competitors. One common technique is for two of them to hang around after a meeting, hoping to catch their leader alone. Once they have the leader cornered, they claim that it is hard for them to say something negative about a star performer, but they thought he or she ought to know that some of your best people are looking for other jobs.
They finish with a personal declaration of loyalty and then offer to take on more work if necessary. They hope to gain favor by casting doubt on high performing coworkers. Meanwhile the Doers are sending out their resumes, looking for better opportunities elsewhere.
Because dysfunctional people have more at stake in staying put, they are more likely to “fight” for their jobs. Underperformers can cover up their fears and hold their feelings in check when things are going their way. But those fears are always waiting to crop up when they are antagonized by potential changes in the status quo.
When pushed to respond to the ambiguity and inconsistency typically associated with change, dysfunctional employees become fearful of being held accountable because their shortfalls may be exposed. They must first trust that they will be treated fairly if they do make mistakes and given the opportunity to fix what is broken. Functional organizations have the responsibility to create a workplace where Doers flourish and underachievers can practice getting better.