arrow_back_ios Back View more articles
Nigel Scott

Expert opinion: Do you have a square peg in your business?

What should you do if a team member just doesn’t fit?

I’m wondering if anyone reading this has experienced, or perhaps is experiencing now, a situation where you have a team member who just doesn’t fit.

Maybe there was a time when they did fit, and everything was fine (or maybe there wasn’t but you were too busy to notice!).

Something interesting happens as businesses ‘grow up’. A bit like people, their needs change as they mature, and the needs of business owners change over time as well.

Often, people in the team grow and develop along with the business and it’s a wonderful thing to see someone in your team blossom and develop as a person, as well as an employee.

When that happens (and it happens a lot) then as the owner and leader you are entitled to take lots of credit for the example that you have set and for the growth that you have encouraged.

But what about the people who don’t fit? I notice that when mature businesses employ someone who is a poor fit, it becomes obvious fairly quickly to everyone. Then the employee has a choice of learning the behaviour, attitude and skills required pretty fast, or one way or another leaving the business.

More of a problem though is when there is a team member who has been in from the start, or at least from the ‘early days’. Perhaps they were great at the time, for the work that was asked of them, and everything seemed fine.

Then, slowly, over time, things changed. The business grew, evolved. Roles changed, became bigger, with more responsibility and more impact on your results. Someone who has known the business from the start is the obvious choice to take more on, right? Especially as you’re so busy. You have a problem, growing bit by bit, almost unnoticed, until one day you have to acknowledge that something’s not right:

  • Someone isn’t performing the way you need them to, and you just can’t ignore it any more
  • You know deep inside that they just don’t fit any more
  • They don’t seem happy at work
  • Having them in your business makes you unhappy
  • They’re disruptive – maybe not intentionally, but that’s what’s happening
  • They want to be treated differently

Of course it may not be solely down to them, right? After all, you hired them, promoted them and have put up with it for all this time.

There may be all kinds of things going on in their life outside work which have an impact. They may have a partner, children, a mortgage, credit cards to pay off and holidays to pay for.

Some strategies to think about:

  • You could continue to ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t. (Despite this, it seems to be a popular option!)
  • You could hope the damage isn’t too great. It’s growing, right, so why would it stop?
  • You could look around for someone to deal with it for you. Look in the mirror.
  • You could confront the brutal truth. Something’s gone wrong, you’re partly responsible, and you’re the one who has to sort it out.
  • Have an honest conversation with yourself about the best outcome for you, your business, this team member, and everyone else touched by your business.
  • Have an honest conversation with them as well. Get help if you need it.
  • Be fair. Be fair to them, and to yourself as well.
  • Be proactive and stop it happening again.

This means:

  • Have clear performance measures for every job
  • Hold people accountable for meeting the expectations (it helps if you are doing this yourself!)
  • Regularly look at the jobs (not the people) in your business; how will the jobs need to grow and develop? Be specific. Then look at your people, how will you help them grow, succeed and develop to meet the needs of the future?

Take ownership, and take action.

Nigel Scott offers business and executive coaching in Wiltshire and Swindon. Contact him on 01672 512001 or via email at