Strengthening the “Weak Links”

Milton from Movie Office SpaceRecognize This! – Teams are made up of individuals who have varying strengths. Bringing out everyone’s strengths further strengthens the team and its results.

Think about the teams you’ve worked on throughout your career. Was every member of the team strong? Or were some, well, weaker than others?

Intuit’s Fast Track blog recently ran a post that grabbed my attention: A Measure of Your Team’s Health: How you Treat Your “Idiot.” The point of the article is every team has a worst performer. How that person is treated by the team is very strong indicator of the culture of that team.

Now, I wouldn’t call any of my past collaborators idiots, but there is wisdom in acknowledging where weaknesses lie and adjusting for them.

The author of the Fast Track article told a story of a volunteer group whose “idiot” was Eliot, who just couldn’t seem to do anything quite right.

“The other people running the volunteer group managed him so that he could truly contribute, treating Elliot’s cheerfulness and willingness as his key strengths. Every community meeting requires someone to put away all the folding chairs, or to welcome people warmly at the registration desk. We gave him all those jobs.”

That’s the trick – finding what every member of the team is good at doing and then play to those strengths. Make sure every member of the team is a valuable contributor – it’s not only good for the productivity and results of the team as a whole, but also for the sense of meaning, purpose and self-worth for each team member individually, too.

What should you not do? Ostracize your weak link, hoping they’ll quit or just go away.

Huffington Post recently included an article about the impact of ostracism on employee health and morale. A study conducted by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found:

“Having no role to play in work culture ‘was more detrimental to one’s well-being than having a negative role to play.’ The effects of ostracism were not only detrimental to employee health, they were also found to affect people’s job performance and satisfaction. Of the 1,300 surveyed in Robinson’s study, the people who reported having experienced ostracism were more likely to feel job dissatisfaction, were significantly more likely to quit, felt less committed to their work and experienced greater health issues.”

Let’s be honest. Ostracism is just another form of bullying. It’s wrong and doesn’t belong in the workplace. Setting aside the morality of it, however, allowing ostracism (and any form of bullying) to occur is costing you revenue in the form of less quality work, more absenteeism, and higher turnover costs.

The moral of the story – we all bring unique strengths to the organization. What are you doing to bring out the strengths of every member of your team?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

2 Responses

  1. Phyllis says:

    How long should/can an “idiot” be endured before it becomes detrimental and the rest of the team? I have worked in many teams over the years and there is either the poor performer who appears to ride everyone’s coat tails, or the individual who has all their work assigned elsewhere because they just cannot seem to get it done right or get it done at all. In my experience many team members begin to feel they are being punished for performance and move on. When do you make the decision that it may be time to cut ties or risk a great team?

    • Derek Irvine Derek Irvine says:

      It’s a good question, Phyllis. During our careers, we’ve likely all struggled with the poor performer who doesn’t pull their own weight and seems to create work for the rest of us. Ideally, that person is evaluated for their strengths and put in a role where they can contribute more fully. If that’s not possible, often the kindest thing to do (for all involved) is exit the person from the organization. What isn’t okay, however, is bullying, subjugating or ridiculing the “idiot” while still on the team.

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