Conquering Corporate Cancer

Is Your Company Winning The War Against Q & S Disease?

It’s dynamic. It’s dangerous. And it can be deadly. Q & S disease will blindside you, wrap its arms around you, and sack you for a devastating loss like a defenseless NFL quarterback. And telling me that your company doesn’t have the illness is the worst form of denial, because you do. Every organization does. Some just learn how to manage it better than others.

The sad reality is that the symptoms of Q & S disease are black and white, measurable, and capable of being addressed and contained. Yet, leadership in many cases doesn’t even acknowledge them. Just like a person who knows that their blood pressure may lead to something more serious but ignores recommended treatments, business leaders often won’t tackle these key indicators of Q & S disease: poor employee morale, decreasing customer satisfaction scores, sub-standard personal, team, and organizational performance and productivity, slumping sales, and eroding profitability.

“What does Q & S mean?” you ask. Well, I’d give you the benefit of the doubt that you may have heard the disease described in other terms, but my optimism would be short-lived, I’m sure. When I coach business executives and leaders and explain Q & S to them, they all understand it, but less than twenty percent have had prior experience doing anything about it. And what’s even more tragic, when they really do comprehend it, only a handful have the courage to actually deal with it, get up from the turf, shake off the sack, and run the next play in the never-ending battle against this dreaded opponent.

“Quit and Stay” disease is a company’s worst nightmare. Here’s an anonymous, real-life scenario of how the illness unfolds in a typical organization.

I met Bob Miller in a company that I partnered with about twenty years ago for the purpose of helping that client to improve its performance, productivity, and profit. Bob was a sales professional in his forties, a likeable guy, and had been with the company a little over a decade.

For the past five years, Bob’s numbers had been trending downward with poorer sales results each year as well as decreasing customer satisfaction scores. Despite his likeability factor as a person, he looked unhappy when we had group coaching, and I never observed him smiling or interacting with any of his co-workers in a meaningful way. Management had finally reached their wits end with him.

Eventually, in the middle of a one-on-one coaching session with me, I asked him point blank, “Bob, when did you quit your job?” At first, his expression was hostile. He didn’t say anything, and put his head down on his chest. After a few seconds, he looked up, and almost in a shameful whisper admitted, “Maybe five years ago.”

Yes, five years earlier Bob Miller disengaged from his company personally, professionally, and emotionally, but hung around because the job market was dismal and he had nowhere to go. His survival instinct told him he needed a paycheck, benefits, and a place where he didn’t have to learn new products, processes, or procedures. It was easy for him, comfortable. So he QUIT his job and he STAYED with the company, a classic example of “Q & S” disease.

What I came to learn about Bob is that he was an exceptionally gifted and talented professional who had been passed over for a promotion to become a sales manager. The company negotiated their managerial selection process poorly, and Bob reacted to the rejection even worse. He became both a silent and vocal critic of the company to internal and external customers. We later discovered that while he sold at minimum performance levels, he was referring the customers he did sell to another location to have their products serviced.

When I asked Bob’s boss while he was still there after five years of manifesting Q & S symptoms, he said, “Well, he sells a little better than our worst salesperson.” Now, if you can discover the wisdom in that statement, you certainly have a better grasp of logic than I do.

There are Bob Miller’s in your company. For whatever multitude of reasons, they quit their job, but they’re still there, collecting a paycheck and benefits, performing at or below minimally acceptable standards, all the while sowing the seeds of discontent with your team members and customers. The Bob Miller’s still work for you because you either don’t see how their behavior impacts your bottom line, you see it and you don’t know what to do about it, you see it and you don’t want to do anything about it, or Bob Miller is somebody’s relative or friend who needs a J-O-B.

So, now you have a choice. You can be a haven for “quitters and stayers” and watch your business slowly evaporate, or you can learn to manage Q & S disease and develop a sustainable, competitive advantage in your marketplace. If you opt for the latter, these are some of the things you need to do to manage the health and profitability of your organization:

  • Survey your employees annually to discern their level of professional and emotional engagement with your company. Then, act upon the results of the survey as necessary.
  • Make certain that you don’t have any Quit & Stay leaders working for you. If the manager of one of your departments has quit and stayed, what type of productivity do you think you’re getting from that person’s employees?
  • Define your vision, mission, and values and ensure that they’re an integral part of your day-to-day operations. Hold people accountable to the behaviors that fortify your culture.
  • Create a work environment where healthy and abundant communication negates divisive cliques, and where a manager’s first responsibility is to understand and apply the principles of servant leadership with all employees.
  • Get the right people on the bus. Develop a strong recruiting, selection, hiring, and training protocol and adhere to it religiously.
  • Make sure that every employee has a coaching plan that encourages development and growth in their career and vocation within your organization.

Those few suggestions form the foundation for a game plan to minimize the impact of Q & S disease. My final recommendation requires a bit more explanation.

At least once a year, conduct a thorough, high-level review of your entire staff. Determine who your disciples are, those committed employees who are passionate about carrying out your mission with dedication and enthusiasm. Acknowledge and celebrate their contributions to your company in meaningful ways.

Then, determine who comprises your middle-of-the-road employees. They get the job done, although their engagement with your mission, vision, and values is marginal. Create and execute a plan to coach and to challenge them in a positive manner to achieve higher levels of performance, and then follow-through with those plans.

Finally, identify those on your staff who, for whatever reasons, have quit and stayed with your company. Constructively confront their behavior and invite them to re-engage with your business vision, mission and values. Should they decline that invitation in the coming weeks and months, then acknowledge their wishes and provide whatever outplacement services you deem to be appropriate.

The fact of the matter is that in these economic times, you can’t afford to have quit and stay employees like Bob Miller collecting a check while contributing next to nothing to their co-workers and customers. It’s just plain wrong. While Q & S disease will always be a part of the contemporary workplace, its disastrous effects can be conquered with leadership due diligence and appropriate interventions.

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