Are we trying so hard to retain our staff that we are driving away our high performers?

“Finding good staff is a nightmare”. “It’s better to have someone that does an ok job than have no one at all”. “That person’s a bit negative, but we just need someone to do the work”.

I won’t sugar coat it – attracting and keeping great staff is hard. When you want to hire the top 10 percenters (T10Ps as Judith Beck calls them), well, by definition they are only 10% of the workforce, and your company isn’t the only one trying to attract these people.

Add in a “Great resignation” and the tiredness that is still a hangover from the pandemic and it’s a tricky situation.

So it’s understandable that people are holding onto staff for dear life sometimes regardless of performance (or lack thereof).

At NEP we are seeing an increasing tendency for people to tolerate average performers, or negative people, with many truly believing they will never find someone else to replace that person.

But at what cost?

What they often fail to notice is that everyone else’s energy and therefore productivity may be getting dragged down by tolerating these people.

Research on high performance shows that high performers like to work with others who share their values. If you do a values assessment on high performers, one of their top values will be something around achievement / results-orientation. So, they like to work with others who share this value.

Therefore if you tolerate the average or negative performers, the engagement of the high performers will start to wane as they look around for other places with high performers for them to work with. And they will be snapped up in no time.

So what to do?

The first thing to look at is the leadership – is it a lack of leadership which has perpetuated the issue? Could the person be lifted up with better leadership? This includes things like:

  • clearly articulating the culture that you have and want to preserve
  • having the right induction programs around mindset and behaviours
  • having the right KPIs, beyond just the job description so that everyone is very clear on what is expected of them to perform
  • ensuring coaching conversations take place in real time rather than ignoring sub-par behaviours
  • openly rewarding and acknowledging people who are doing the right things.


Assuming the leadership is appropriate and the person still isn’t where you need them to be, some form of action needs to be taken. Otherwise you will indirectly start driving away your great staff.

Interestingly, when our clients find that these problematic people decide to leave, they initially panic about how the work is going to get done. Once they get over the initial panic, they end up being pleasantly surprised by how the energy and productivity of others suddenly lifts.

And it’s often a good opportunity for them to think about restructuring some of the tasks and roles so that people can really work on what energises, and then they end up hiring for a slightly different role anyway.

Funnily enough none of our clients have ever regretted the departure of their average or sub-par staff.

If you would like to discuss attracting and retaining great staff, please contact us to book your 45 min complimentary Performance Call.