Susan was a star performer who had been with the company for many years. Susan was always early and one of the last to leave. Rarely did she take a day off that wasn’t scheduled vacation. Susan was the best producer in the department. Every performance review was stellar. The company leadership would say, “If we could only find another Susan!”
But, overall department production kept going down. In order to meet demand, overtime became more and more necessary. At least Susan had kept up her numbers. If they could only find another Susan!
The company replaced the lower performing personnel. Production stabilized for a while, then it began to decline again. They just couldn’t find another Susan.
Other departments began to have problems, people problems. Morale was declining. There wasn’t an obvious reason. Sales were growing. Wages increased. Customers were raving about the product. It seemed everything was going right. Except, people were arguing, pointing fingers at each other, isolating, absenteeism increased, and complaints to management increased. People were increasingly unhappy. But why? The company was doing well. Management–employee relationships were good. Why the discord?
But a pattern was emerging. Us versus Them. It wasn’t an issue between employees and management. It was different employee groups fighting with each other. What once had been a cohesive and collaborative workforce was now in discord and disunity. Why couldn’t they just find another Susan or two, a couple of high performers to gel the team. Surely there were more high quality performers like Susan out there. Or was there? Maybe this was as good as it gets and they were lucky to even have one Susan.
Or maybe the company had been looking at this all wrong. Leadership started looking into and dissecting the various (and increasing) squabbles and arguments. Leadership talked to people. They brought in outside people to talk to people. As the information gathering proceeded, patterns were becoming clearer. There were common themes and people in friction points. And it all lead to Susan.
Yes, the high performer, the model employee, the star was at the heart of it all. She would find out what people’s hot buttons were. But, she didn’t push those buttons. She fed them. She would never light the fuse, but she provided the match…and the gunpowder. Susan was an expert sower of strife.
The company made a bold move. They terminated their star performer. It was scary because there was still the possibility that without their high performer, production would suffer and orders would go unfilled. But, if things continued the way they were going…well, that scenario was worse.
Within a month after Susan’s departure, department production was up close to 10%.
As more time went by, the upward productivity trend continued. Arguments stopped. Employee relationships were restored. People weren’t missing as many days. Employees were happy again. The whole feel of the place changed. And it was amazing how much less machines and equipment was breaking down. Capacity increased to be able to fill additional orders.
The company never wants find another Susan ever again.