The Drag of Hiring a Middle-of-the-Road Employee

Performance Management The Drag of Hiring a Middle-of-the-Road Employee

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The Drag of Hiring a Middle-of-the-Road Employee

Just when you thought ‘lazy’ and ‘unprofessional’ were among the list of the worst employee characteristics, it turns out that ‘mediocre’ is really the worst characteristic you can encounter AND one of the most challenging hiring mistakes you can make.


Because the mediocre employee is disengaged. In fact, a study by Gallup revealed that disengaged workers rival their engaged counterparts by a 2:1 ratio. If you fill your organization with these types of employees, your organization too will become mediocre and eventually flat line. If you’re like most employers, you will probably never fire them because you won’t have a compelling enough reason. They’re so meh that they don’t particularly disrupt the order of things, but they also don’t really do much else other than just perfect mediocrity.

On the other hand, a bad employee will cause problems until everyone sees the obvious, which will then cause that person to eventually leave, be fired, or get laid off. That one’s easy enough.

Mediocre employees lack the motivation to do more than the bare minimum required to get by. They might also lack discipline, energy, and focus, which translates into a waste of time for everyone, including the mediocre employees’ coworkers and managers, who often struggle with making up the production that is lost from the mediocre employee.

So, how do you deal with mediocrity on your team?

Managing Effectively

Although managing mediocre employees can be challenging, here are some ways to work effectively with them:

  • Understand Limitations- understanding where your employee is will help you better work with them on creating a workflow that they feel comfortable managing and one that you are comfortable with that is still contributing to the success of your organization.
  • Highlight Strengths- if you are able to highlight your mediocre employee’s strengths, you can better help them see that they can accomplish certain tasks, which may improve their performance.
  • Clear Expectations- most importantly, setting clear and measurable expectations based on your understanding of their limitations and strengths will allow both you and your employee to be on the same page. When they know what is expected of them, there is no excuse for poor performance. This also establishes accountability and establishes an understanding between you and your mediocre employee that there are consequences.
  • Communication & Feedback- finally, allowing open lines of communication and constructive feedback helps to facilitate the processes outlined above. When your employees feel comfortable communicating challenges with you, you are in a better position to step in and be the leader by example.

Lucky enough to have avoided hiring a mediocre employee in the first place?

Pre-Employment Assessment Testing

Pre-employment assessment tests are a great way to help you avoid hiring employees who are mediocre. Pre-hire assessments allow you to identify specific traits and characteristics that will lead you to understanding more about your candidate’s personality and emotional competencies, like focus and motivation, before you hire and invest in them. Understanding personality, or natural behavioral tendencies, is crucial to identifying those candidates who have the right combination of qualities that you’re looking for in your next hire. Your ideal candidate will be one who has both the skills and experience for the job as well as the right behavioral fit.

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