Are ‘Oxygen Thieves’ Killing your Business Performance?

Coffee break ended ten minutes ago – and they’re still stirring their spoons and gossiping.

You walk past their desk and they spring to life, typing, filing, pushing paper and looking like they are under the pump. But turn the corner and they’re back flicking through Facebook or on their personal phones.

Oxygen thieves, deadwood, time wasters. Whichever definition you prefer, just about every workplace has them: time wasting, aimless, directionless employees who suck up valuable time, money and resources, and produce very little value in return.

But whether you’re driving a project or just taking care of everyday business, as the leader and decision maker, the buck stops with you.

It’s Time to Make Some Changes

Change Your Working Culture

Some workplace cultures are relaxed, yet focused, while others can be hard driving and competitive.

But while you’re negotiating the next deal, or perhaps focusing on other areas of the business from behind your desk, oxygen thieves slip under the radar, taking advantage of blind spots – your work culture may be so relaxed that they put their feet up too much or so hard that you drive them out.

First Consider Your Role as the Leader.

Before you look too hard at the team, let’s first consider your role as the leader.

  • Are your expectations for workplace duties clearly communicated?
  • Are benchmarks for sales targets enforced and defined by you and other team members?
  • Do you have the skills and experience to adequately coach your team?

To be blunt, oxygen thieves get away with it because we let them. So stop them in their tracks by making sure your workplace holds everyone accountable.

Performance Management

One of the best ways to improve your workplace culture is to introduce a performance management program.

In some cases, the term ‘performance management’ comes with a negative connotation, however it does not need to be like this. Evaluate your employees on their workplace performance, showing where they are doing well and where they need to improve.

Jack Welch, the famously gruff leader of General Electric, used annual performance reviews to rank his workforce and then sack the bottom 10%! (Source: It was controversial, it was harsh, but it got results.

Coach Your Team

All great business leaders have had at least one good coach or mentor to help them develop to their full potential. Unfortunately, in this day of ‘lean organisations’ and hectic schedules, many professionals cannot get the level of coaching and mentoring they need to meet their own developmental goals.

Research has proven that coaching develops the capability and skills your people must possess in order to be successful in their role and critical to future business success.

It is all well and good to implement performance management, however ongoing team coaching is prudent to ensure that team morale and motivation remains high and the implementation of training outcomes are consistent for full productivity.

Constant Feedback

These days, leading technology companies like Amazon, Adobe and Google evaluate and rank their teams regularly (rather than just annually), ensuring that feedback and progress on employee’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is constantly provided.

Employees have a real time picture of how they are doing and what can be done to improve things before the issue escalates.

This process ensures that underperformers have nowhere to hide. They can’t sit back, relax and wait for the annual review to jump up and actually start doing their job.

Next Steps

It’s tempting to give underperforming employees a swift kick up the bum or a push right out the door, but if the core of the problem is not identified and fixed, then the issue will continue. With the right kind of performance management and coaching, they can become an employee who you’ll trust to deliver for the business.

KONA Group offers customised executive and leadership coaching programs that have proven successful for several Australian and New Zealand companies.

Call KONA Group on 1300 611 288 or email for more information and to discuss customised training and coaching programs suitable for your organisation.