The Performance of an Attitude Matrix

by Jeff Saari

In my work I have discovered that there are two general areas for celebration and improvement with each employee.  I call these two key areas performance and attitude and I have created a matrix of four possibilities that may be helpful to managers and leaders when thinking through the current reality of their individual employees.  Here is the matrix:

  1. Great performance and great attitude, 2. great performance and bad attitude, 3. bad performance and great attitude and 4. bad performance and bad attitude.

I think we can all agree that we have seen employees in all of these categories of the matrix.  Of course there are grey areas, but for this purpose let’s keep it black and white.  Performance refers to meeting the criteria and objectives of their technical role, that is what they do for the organization.  Attitude refers to intangible things like respect for coworkers, stepping up and taking initiative, being a team player, feeling connected and engaged, being appreciative, etc.  So in short another way to state performance and attitude is tangible and intangible outcomes.

We all love the first group.  They are engaged and get the work done.  They look for ways to help others, take on more than asked, and seek to resolve challenges by collaborating.  As managers we want to recognize in various ways these A players.

The second group is a tough bunch.  They do good quality work but they aren’t engaged and worse even toxic.   As managers we need to coach these folks about the expectations of respectful behavior and seek to understand why they are curmudgeon.  When coaching fails sometimes ultimatums will work.  Managers sometimes fear that if they fire a great performer that the business unit/team will fall down.  I have never seen this happen and is an unfounded assumption/fear.

The third group are well intentioned folks that may lack technical skill, experience, cognitive aptitudes, etc.  Again here coaching is required as well as an assessment how they learn best.  Some people need visuals to learn best.  Some people need to be taken by the hand.  Some people need autonomy, still others consistent check-ins.  Of course clear objectives need to be in place to measure the needed performance improvements.

Lastly, the fourth group.  Get rid of these people, they are time suckers and the return on their incremental development will be dismal.  Don’t keep a dying horse.  I have learned that even though I may not like it, not everyone is a good fit for the culture.  By being always optimistic and wanting a win/win this can drag a situation on for too long.  By having to develop performance and attitude, this may require more resources, time and energy than it’s worth.

Use this matrix to contemplate the state of your workforce and to come up with strategies to get people to the next level.  Most people don’t wake up looking to do a bad job, or cast a negative attitude.  Get in there and coach people to understand what their hindrances to performance and/or attitude are.  What you find just may help you change up a situation for the better.

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