How to get the best from passengers in an organization?

A Passenger or deadwood employee is one that has stopped being an asset to an organization. They can also turn into detractors who can work against the organization. Let me share two stories of passengers to elaborate:

Story 1:

A senior manager in a bank was managing sales and relationships with high end customers through his sales team. He was a good aggregator and strategist. As required, he motivated his team and brought in above average results. He did not need to do any direct sales.

The bank was starting a new division “Private Banking” and were looking for leaders. His name came up and he was immediately selected. However, his role would need to change and in addition to managing a team, 80% performance would be rated on direct sales. He had not done any sales for 5 years and the market had changed.

For the following two years his sales team did well but his personal performance was below par even after putting in his best efforts. This had never happened in his entire career. He was disheartened and became a passenger. The management was alert to this and smoothly shifted him back to his earlier position. In a year he was back on track. An asset saved by an alert management.

Story 2:

A successful IT project manager working in a transnational organization in India wanted a transfer overseas for the education of his only child. The management considered him an asset and agreed to send him as a business relationship manager after due training.

In the first year he did not perform well and claimed that it was due to settling down. However, the management gave him a B grade. In the second year his superior in India changed and the new incumbent was his junior by experience. Disheartened by this he did not perform well again and got a C rating.

He then asked for a lateral transfer to another group where he did not perform again. Knowing that it was an attitude issue and not a competency issue the management decided to send him back to India and gradually ease him out in the next year if he did not improve. He got the hint and shifted to a smaller organization in a higher position. Sometimes a change in scene helps.

Do you think there are any other alternatives to manage the above cases? What would be the implications of each in your view?

“Passenger management” is related to the concepts of “managing contribution perceptions” and “managing transition journeys” outlined in the book “Carve your own path to success”. For more ideas, check out this article on my website.

I hope this article triggers thoughts for managing better in the new normal, post COVID 19.

– Alan