Team management dilemma: Should you fire lazy agents right away?


In a productivity-focused setting like a call center, it seems there’s no room for lazy agents. Or is there?

As a manager, we’re sure you’ve encountered this employee before: the one who never seems to get any work done. Either you’ll find them wandering about and chatting with their teammates or just sitting in front of their computers, physically present but are really busy daydreaming.
How should you deal with these types of agents?


Your impulse might be to consider firing them immediately. After all, they may be dragging down your team’s productivity or possibly annoying their teammates who want to focus on doing actual work. Slacking off, or appearing to do so, always has a negative connotation, and this bad reputation multiplies exponentially in a result-driven setting, such as in the customer support field.

As a team leader or manager, performance management is one of your key responsibilities. You’re in charge of improving less than ideal situations so you can maximize the organization’s productivity. But before you fire your “lazy” call center agents, we suggest you consider the following.


1.     Is it possible to transfer them to another position?


Even professionals who have a lot of potential may, at some point in their careers, appear sluggish. It can happen to each one of us, especially if our job doesn’t match our key skills.

Often, managers forget that effective team management is a result of harnessing the potential of employees. You can only do that if you hire the right people for a particular job. If not, those employees will be wasting so much of their knowledge and talents by doing a job that doesn’t let them maximize their expertise.


2.     What are their biggest contributions, so far?


Before firing a lazy call center agent, you first need to review all of their contributions to the organization. An employee may be judged as unproductive, but that doesn’t automatically mean that they’re unsuccessful in all subsets of their job. They may, for example, excel at some tasks like upselling or cross-selling but be ineffective at resolving the technical problems of customers. For a more holistic performance management, you should take a closer look at every single one of your employees’ contributions. This way, you can also evaluate them in a fair and accurate way or design training programs to target their weaknesses.


3.     What do these lazy employees do best?


Team leaders and managers are in a position to help their staff nurture their individual potential. The greatest leaders allow their team members to shine by letting them do what they do best. Have a one-on-one talk with your agents and let them know that you’re willing to make rearrangements if it’s possible. This way, you’re letting them make more significant contributions to the organization while making room for a new member of your team who has the right customer support skills.


4.     How do they affect team dynamics?


Team dynamics greatly affect employee engagement. When team members work harmoniously with one another, each of them becomes driven to accomplish more. But if there are gaps among some members, productivity may suffer.

If your “lazy” call center agents affect others’ performance, you may feel the need to cut them loose. The other option is to transfer them to more individualistic tasks that won’t require much interaction with others. Remember, when you do move them to another department, make sure that their new task suits them better than the previous one.


In reality, different leaders have different team management styles, and what works for one may not work for the other. This is because you’re operating on varying contexts and there are unique considerations in almost every case. Tell us how you deal with lazy agents in the comment box!



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