What is a leader’s responsibility to their employees?

A leader should understand that there are generally three distinct types of employees, and each of these employees needs a different type of support from their leader. It is a leader’s responsibility to identify these employees and respond accordingly.

The first type of employee are those who obtain a job and come to work for a paycheck. You may be familiar with Jack Welch’s concept of continuously cutting the bottom 10% of performers within a company. While the concept of helping disengaged employees move to a new opportunity is not inherently flawed, maintaining this practice can be detrimental for several reasons.

At some point, you should reach an equilibrium within your organization where even the bottom 10% are high performers. Continuing to cut employees can create a negative culture where hyper-competitiveness is based in fear rather than the desire to succeed.

Cutting employees also disregards any possibility that you may have hired this individual into the wrong role. An effective leader does not simply cut this employee for underperforming, but instead identifies this individual and aids them in finding a new opportunity that excites them. While sometimes this may be a role outside the company, there could very well be an opportunity within your organization that would be a great fit for this employee.

A second type of employee is the worker that is perfectly content to give their best effort while at work but are not concerned with advancing beyond their current position. These employees are dependable and loyal, and their stability should be recognized and praised. A good leader will provide them with the tools they need to perform their job, and then stay out of their way.

The third type of employee is the overachiever. This employee desires to take on more responsibility—they are ambitious and enthusiastic. A leader can best serve this employee by recognizing this drive and offering the resources to develop their career. This could be providing mentorship, additional responsibilities, or supporting this employee by offering a reference when they take the next step in their career.

At some point, we have all been one of these three employees. The true magic happens when we have the opportunity to interact with a leader who recognizes our potential and provides proper mentorship. Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more about mentorship!