The "problem" person. The "bad apple." I hear this all the time in organizations. "What do we do about that one person who is causing trouble for everyone else? The response is typically one of two choices: fix them or fire them. The organizations that are tepid about firing are often calling me in to do the "fixing." Many an executive coach, I imagine, has spent hours trying to "fix" the problem person.
There’s nothing wrong with coaching, and yes, some "problem" employees can benefit from coaching, but don’t fall into this "fixing" trap. Jeffrey Pfeffer writes a column in Business 2.0, and in this month’s edition he quotes quality guru W. Edwards Deming:
Defects are always a sign of system failure.
Don’t try to fix the individual until AFTER you have tried to fix the system. That’s like stopping the assembly line to fix a bent part, then starting up the assembly line again and have it produce another bent part (that you now need to fix). Productivity will grind to a halt.
Even if you have someone who is genuinely disruptive and a bad fit for your organization, firing them (or counseling them to seek employment elsewhere) is not going to completely solve the problem–I guarantee it. The system always has responsibility, so if you’re the boss, you need to be able to articulate that and do something about it.