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Marginal Staff

Dear Dave
It’s been nuts. Our company has doubled in size over the past 24 months. Attracting clients and work is not an issue. The problem has been finding enough staff to meet the demands of the work that has been walking through the door. We’ve really had to scramble and be pretty imaginative to fill our staffing needs.

What’s becoming clear to us over the past several months is that in our zeal to fill openings, we have not always done a good job of adequately screening new hires and have ended up somewhat compromising our historical standards. As a result, we find ourselves with some marginal people we should not have hired in the first place, but they are here now and doing the best they can, and while we know deep down that we should let them go, we are just so busy we don’t see how we can cut them loose.

We want you to talk us into doing the right thing and going ahead anyway to clean house.

Dear FH
Let’s start with morale. Not dealing with sub-standard performance or out-of-bounds behaviors sends a terrible message and places a real burden on your best people. They know who is performing and who is not. If your high quality staff sees you turning a blind eye, or continuously compromising your standards, you run the very real risk of losing their respect and confidence and, ultimately, your ability to lead. Sooner or later the best and most capable will resent having to pick up the slack and will leave your firm for a better environment, or worse, stay at your firm and quit making anything more than a marginal effort themselves. What a waste that would be.

How about liability? Can you really afford to expose your firm to the increased risk of loss associated with having substandard people working on projects? How about the cost of alienating clients who become disenchanted with the work product or service experience of dealing with your sub-par staff? That’s great that you have more work than you want at the moment, but what are you going to do when the inevitable next downturn hits and you have to overcome a soiled reputation at the very same time you find yourself scratching for work?

Finally, why waste this wonderful opportunity to upgrade and reshape your client base? If you have more work than you need, start saying no, raise your fees, or tighten your terms as a way to discourage marginal clients while you part ways with your questionable staff. Re-size your client base and the practice to what is appropriate and reasonable for the volume of work you can handle given the fully qualified people you can assemble and bring to bear. There is no glory in getting big for the sake of being big.

Wahby and Associates