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Demand More From Your ‘Losers’

Rather than judging, spur them on

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

If you ranked your employees in terms of ability and attitude, you’d have no trouble picking the best and worst. But how about the relatively poor performers who aren’t bad enough to fire?

If you want to enhance your reputation as a resourceful manager, then put these “losers” to work. Don’t stamp them as useless or assume they can only make minimal contributions to your team.

Reach out to these also-rans and let them prove their skills. Here’s how:

Listen without labeling. When “losers” talk at staff meetings, you may sigh, ignore them or interrupt them. When you show you don’t care what they say, others will follow your lead and roll their eyes or talk among themselves. Result: No one really listens to the “loser.”

Solution: The next time this person speaks, pretend you’re listening to the CEO. Maintain eye contact. Assess the substance of what you hear—without casting aspersions or thinking “Shut up already.” Ask follow-up questions. Prompt the “loser” to give examples or evidence to buttress his points. Don’t judge the messenger, just the message.

Feed them breaking news. Most “losers” know they’re not highly respected. They’re not dummies; they can tell that their ideas fall upon deaf ears. And they’re often the last to learn of big announcements that affect their jobs.

Make these outcasts the first ones to hear about new developments. Not only will you give them a sense of confidence and importance, but through gentle prompting you can get their insights on how to manage during a reorganization.

Salute their skills. If you look hard enough, even the most hapless worker brings at least one valuable asset to the job. Isolate a strength that each employee possesses—from mastery of a foreign language to encyclopedic knowledge of your company’s history—and tap that talent. Assign a high-visibility project that lets the “loser” apply what he does best.

Cut the favoritism. If you tend to invite the same core group to lunch, spread the wealth. Schedule meals or social events with those who might normally feel excluded.

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