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Should you fire a loyal but underperforming employee?

By James Cronk
Man with hands clasped representing an underperforming employee

Can you guess the percentage of people, on average, who struggle to fire an underperforming employee? One who is loyal but who just doesn’t perform well?

What would you do if you had an employee like that?

Would you patiently wait for them to have an a-ha! moment and suddenly start improving, or would you fire them?

On average, 70 percent of people would struggle to fire such an employee.

Is this you?

Let me tell you a story and see if I can help motivate you to make the right decision instead of the popular one.

Here’s what to do when you have an underperforming employee.

A few years ago, I had a long-term employee whose performance was just…okay.

And that, my friends, was the problem.

He was okay.

Not awesome.

Not memorable.

Not above and beyond.


As each season came to an end, and as the golf course closed, he went off to teach snowboarding or snowshoeing or snow-something.

How do I know this?

Well, I know because he talked about it nonstop all during the golf season—it was clearly his passion.

It was obvious that his time at the club in the summer was just to get by until the winter. We were his second choice, his “must do”, his cross to bear—and it showed.

And of course, each spring, he always came back to us. He was loyal because it was easy.

This year, I decided to finally make a change. It was about time.

As he gleefully planned his escape out the door at the end of the season, I decided that I would do us both a big favour.

I told him that next year he wasn’t coming back.

Making a tough decision to further my business. 

It was a big decision for me. No, I didn’t have a replacement for him, and yes, he was one of my senior managers.

In fact, he was an integral part of our business. To make it harder, I knew that he was a personable guy and well-liked by our customers and his fellow staff.

What he wasn’t, though, was a fantastic, engaged leader!

He was mediocre. 

He continually almost got there, but never did.

The reality was, I needed more.

More importantly, the business needed more. More effort, more output, more results!

His role was important enough that I needed a superstar in that position, and I realized that if I kept things going the same way the next year, the business simply wasn’t going to grow. (See my blog “Are You Insane”)

Here’s what I wished he was bringing to work:

  • New ideas for selling.
  • New strategies for growing our database.
  • New templates or processes to help our staff be more efficient.

As you can imagine, when I let him go, he was stunned.

He didn’t understand why I was firing him, which is fair because I could barely articulate those reasons myself. I just knew that “okay” wasn’t enough. I made the 30 percent decision.

I fired a loyal but underperforming employee.

What happened next?

The next spring, I worked very hard at posting the right skills required for the job. I also asked around to everyone I knew and said that I was looking for a very specific type of person to fill that role.

It didn’t happen right away. At one point, I even considered chasing him to get him back.

And you might do that, too.

The secret?

Be patient. 

One day, when I had almost given up hope, the right candidate walked in.

It was like a movie…the skies opened up, the sunlight shone down, unicorns and lollipops floated in the background.

She had all the things I was looking for:

  • She was energetic.
  • She was personable.
  • She looked you in the eye when you asked her to do something.
  • She had all kinds of ideas on how to make the business better.

Best of all, the customers and the staff loved her!

Within a few weeks I had forgotten all about the underperforming employee I had fired, and so had everyone else. I had hired a truly Powered On employee (read this blog post for some tips on how to hire Powered On people.).

Hire employees who perform

The new end to the season.

That fall, when the season was winding down, my chat with my new employee was totally different. I begged her to come back the next year.

The result?

The business grew, profits grew, and most surprising, the staff who reported to her became more engaged as well.

So as your season winds down, it may be a good time to make a plan to succeed (see how to do that in this blog post).

It may finally be time to make some big decisions on an underperforming employee. Follow these easy steps.

  • Identify the keepers—you know who they are.
  • Identify who’s obviously going—hopefully you didn’t keep them all season, but just in case you did.
  • Then identify who is loyal but underperforming and ask yourself how many ways they’re holding your business back.

Then, watch your business grow.

At Cronk Group, we can help you achieve your goals, create a plan, grow your business, and more. We offer online coaching, full-service management services, and everything in between! Contact us today and let the Cronk Group help you reach success!

And don’t forget to take the Cronk Power of Ten Performance Plan training to help you and your team achieve your goals.

Now that you know what you might need to change when trying to create a plan to make your business grow, see how else we can help.

Want to learn more about how to successfully run your business? Here are three of my most popular articles:

Great Service Comes from Great People
Is It Time to Fire Yourself?
HEY BOSS…. Let me tell YOU something!!




Download and apply these 10 ‘POWER ON’ principles and see immediate improvements in the satisfaction of your staff, your guests and your bottom line!

James Cronk

For the past twenty-five years James Cronk has been helping business owners get themselves, their people and their customers powered on. He uses a unique blend of creativity, experience and proven systems to help golf clubs achieve their goals and increase their profits by improving their systems, their service and their people!
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