The Danger of Rewarding Mediocrity

If you’re a leader who rewards mediocrity then don’t be surprised when your people produce mediocre results.

When you reward mediocrity, or even just tolerate it, you not only stymie the growth of the mediocre individual, you hinder the growth of others in your organization who are aware of it. 

Mediocrity is a threat to success; it may be driven by political correctness, some misguided HR policy or just a lack of awareness but whatever the reason, it undercuts your top performers’ efforts. 

Fear of confrontation is one of the major reasons for tolerating mediocrity. 

If you’re a leader without the courage to confront under-performers you should know that ignoring mediocrity is killing the morale and excellence of your top performers. It kills morale because what you call ignoring your top performers call rewarding. The hard truth is that you’re not helping anything or anyone by avoiding the reality of mediocrity.

You may think that you don’t “reward” mediocre people but for the truly unmotivated, mediocre person no tangible reward is required; simply being allowed to remain mediocre is reward enough. Unchallenged, they can remain mediocre for their entire career. I’ve never seen an organization reach it’s true potential when staffed with even a few mediocre people.

You’re hurting your organization, your team, your staff or whoever it is you’re leading when you allow mediocrity to linger within their ranks. You unconsciously demotivate the motivated and lead them towards mediocrity as well.

Don’t suck the wind from the sails of success by allowing any member of your team to consistently under-perform. If you’re a leader who allows mediocrity to dawdle within your organization then it’s possible that you just might be mediocre yourself.   

13 thoughts on “The Danger of Rewarding Mediocrity

  1. Mediocrity is prevalent in larger organizations. Leaders are afraid to rock the status quo.

    Sometimes, mediocrity flourishes because the person in charge has mentally checked out without telling anyone. They have a private exit strategy under wraps.

    The way the leader shows up so goes the team.

    That fear of confrontation comes from the team not trusting each other. Without trust, you’re afraid to challenge.

    My .50 cents.

    1. Great Comment Steve! I agree with your “checked out” comment, I think that often comes when the stay on the job to “practice” retirement.

      There is no need to push anyone at that point because it has become all about the leader and not about their people.

  2. Your article makes me think about the Drucker quote: No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.

    1. I’d say the most successful organizations are those led by leaders who help “common” or average people perform in an uncommon way. Mediocre people perform well below average and tend to pull those around them down to their level.

      1. Fair enough but I also saw above average people underperform because of ultra-aggressive performance oriented management. I guess it’s all in the balance.

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