We come across two shades of managers: one type who are tender minded and are always hesitant to communicate any feelings of displeasure to their subordinates; the other type who are quite business-like, bordering on rudeness, who simply dictate their agenda without consideration of others’ problems and measure everything on the simple metrics of output.  Both types can be dysfunctional.

In my work-life, I have experienced different kinds of employees which I would like to group into the following four categories:

Missionaries: Employees in this category are self-motivated and self-initiated. Their commitment to work is motivated by their aspirations for self-fulfillment.  Leaders have to do very little to motivate them, except to ensure that they are continuously provided with new challenges, are given autonomy and not supervised too closely.  Normally, 15% of all employees fall within this category.

Professionals: They are the ones who can deliver to their maximum potential provided that they are given the necessary tools and infrastructure within a supporting environment. Normally, about 50% of all employees fall into this category.

Slow-Pacers: Under this category, we come across employees who do not show  much initiative, work well below their potential when left to themselves, and are often a cause for anxiety for their bosses.  They are also known to take liberties with organizational discipline and need close supervision and frequent chasing to deliver. They usually comprise about 25% of all employees.

Non-Performers: Let us face it, this category consists of those who are non-performers and sometimes saboteurs. Employees under this category do not get along with others and often have problems with authority figures. They always accuse others for their non-performance; they lack initiative and are a bad influence in the organization. They dabble in organizational politics and write nasty communications. They are generally those who are in the wrong place and punish the organization by their conduct. They may comprise around 10% of all employees.

I have often heard managers share their intent to focus on the first two categories (namely performers and missionaries) and ignore the other two categories (namely slow-pacers and non-performers). This is actually quite dysfunctional because by choosing to do so, we ironically run the risk of de-motivating the very same employees that we set out to motivate.

It is therefore important, for managers and leaders to show toughness in dealing with the slow-pacers and non-performers, and try to bring them into the mainstream work culture of the organization. Ignoring these categories, is only postponing a known problem.  In extreme cases, the organizations have to take a call whether to allow such people to continue in their roles.

A word of caution: In assessing employee performance, we need a fair system of assessment and need to develop managerial capabilities to deal with employee problems.

Maintaining a balance: In an environment of high performance expectations, managers need to be tough with regard to employee performance, and simultaneously compassionate in dealing with employees’ problems. High performance can be sustained only in an environment of high compassion. This combination is what I call tough love and in my work experience I have hugely benefited from adopting this approach.