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By Darryl Stewart

When the fill-in does a better job than the regular person

This is such a common scenario. One of your staff goes away on holidays and the fill-in person does a better job than that staff person.

What should a leader do when this happens?

The first thing we need to do is stop, and consider the possibilities:

  1. The fill-in may be trying hard to impress and may be working with a focus and a pace that is not sustainable. In other words, if they had to do the same job every day, they might be no better than the regular person.
  2. Holiday fill-ins often don’t have to do the whole job that the regular person does. Many times, some of the duties are left until the regular person gets back.
  3. We may just plain like the fill-in better. Are they really performing better, or are we biased because they act nicer, share our interests, look better or otherwise appeal to us more than the regular person does?
When the Fill-in Does a Better Job
Think hard before you compare the performance of your fill-in with you regular!

Before we draw any conclusions or take any actions, we need to take a close look at these three factors. If most of what we are feeling falls into some or all of these categories, there’s no need to dig any deeper.

But what if there is more to this? What if you genuinely feel that someone else can do it twice as well? I was recently asked about this by a leader who was faced with this exact realization.

The only unique thing here is how the leader found out there was a performance problem. They had taken someone’s performance as acceptable and then got information (via the fill-in’s performance) that it was sub-standard. Although they had not seen the problem before, no great leader or organization can allow poor performance to continue once they become aware. It will just rear its head again in the future.

My advice? Be very careful that you are not over reacting to the fill-in, and then if you feel that you have uncovered poor performance, take the appropriate actions.

Here are some previous posts that may help.

Some reminders about negative feedback.

When it is the right time to terminate?

What do top performers look like?


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