How to Handle Your Talent–on-the-Bubble

“Today more than ever, the fate of an organization depends on its ability to recruit, retain, and, when necessary, replace talent.”

–        Emmett C. Murphy, Talent IQ

In his best selling book, Talent IQ, Emmett Murphy lays out a very clear and researched process for increasing your company’s productivity and profitability. It all starts with identifying your company’s Top Talent, improving the talent that is not quite Top, and when necessary removing the talent that can’t be improved. It is this last group that Murphy refers to as Talent-on-the-bubble.

Warren Brueggeman, former head of GE Nuclear Energy once said, “You know when the decision is not to improve, but remove when you no longer hold a positive expectation that an individual will make a contribution. It’s intuitive but is backed up by a trail of accumulated evidence and mishaps, some explained and some not, that tell you the risk of continuing is too great. It’s all about the risk, first to your customers, then to your stakeholders, employees and associates, the ones who will bear the burden when all is said and done.”

Chances are good that every company has its fair share oftalent-on-the-bubble. The question is can you readily identify them? To help you here are some common traits of the types of employees who fall into this category.

  1. Procrastinator – a fence sitter; dislikes investing his/her energy; avoids commitment.
  2. Gossip – hostile; critical of others; spreads lies; intends to harm others.
  3. Manipulator – contemptuous; deceives others by inventing/distorting information; convinces others to shun those he/she wishes to harm.
  4. Black Hole – hostile; unresponsive; territorial and unproductive.
  5. Stonewaller – an obstructionist; challenges the legitimacy or need of another party for information or support.
  6. Bully – hostile; attacks someone’s character or the quality of their work; threatens employees with dismissal or a similar fate if they do not comply with his/her demands.
  7. Predator – irresponsible; feeds off of other’s insecurities; uses or destroys others to increase personal power; feels confident that he/she can hunt and destroy.

Recognize anyone? If you currently have employees in your company who exhibit any of the above traits ask the following questions.

  1. Can they change, can they improve?
  2. How destructive are these traits, to fellow employees, to customers, to company reputation, to stakeholders?
  3. Can they be replaced by better talent, by Top Talent?
  4. How quickly can they be removed?

One of the consistent themes that Murphy heard in his research was how difficult it was to fire someone, especially when the person doing the firing was responsible for the hiring. It is always difficult to admit a mistake was made. But when you consider the alternative and how much your talent-on-the-bubble is impacting your company’s productivity and profit, there is no choice.

Just remember the immortal words of The Donald, “You’re fired!”




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