Politicians and certain sections of the media would have us believe the world is divided into strivers and the skivers. In my experience both exist in the world of work but they are in the minority.

‘An effective manager needs to invest in getting the best out of the majority’

In any organisation about 10 per cent of staff are very ambitious, self-motivated and talented and 10 per cent are incompetent, over-promoted and not delivering. The majority are just doing enough, no more no less.

Apathy rules

They see no reason why they should volunteer for unpaid overtime. They have a lunch break and go home on time. They think “going the extra mile” is just another example of managers expecting more than they are prepared to pay for. They are not driven by ambition but by the need to pay the mortgage and the desire for two weeks in the sun. They are not trying to impress the boss by getting into work early or taking work home and they are not after extra responsibility − they don’t need the aggravation.

Yet this is 80 per cent of the workforce. As a manager you don’t need to do much managing of the high flyers − just keep giving them more work and new challenges and accept that they will soon be off to bigger and better things. The incompetent and difficult already take up too much of your management time. An effective manager needs to invest in getting the best out of the majority.

So what tools do you have to do so? The annual appraisal doesn’t offer much for this group. The high flyers get the recognition they crave for by exceeding expectations and the underperformers have it confirmed and documented as they move a step closer to the exit.

Training limits

You have in your gift training opportunities which the high flyers are keen to access but hardly need, whereas those who are in greatest need of training find any excuse to avoid it, leaving little opportunity for the rest.

The keen ones get the extra work and interesting projects they desire and the useless ones can’t be trusted with anything but the most straightforward tasks, leaving the biggest burden on the majority. There is the option of team building, but the trouble is that high flyers are not team players and neither are the skivers.

Therefore, your best bet is one-to-one supervision. In this case, supervision means more than support and guidance. It starts with positive feedback as this is where individuals start to feel valued, get inspired and see their contribution to the future. Most people give of their best when they are happy at work – and what makes people happy is getting on with their teammates and feeling appreciated by their boss.