Warm body syndrome

Posted by on Mar 16, 2009 in leadership, management, recruitment, team | 4 Comments

We’ve all been there. There is a hole in your team, a job that needs to be done. Maybe somebody has moved on leaving a vacancy or your activities have expanded to such an extent that new skills or more resource is needed. And what’s more, you need it now!

The temptation is to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible. The first person who is willing and able is given the job. The nearest warm body is plucked out of the air and put in place as soon as possible. You just succumbed to ‘warm body syndrome’.

Ok, so you might get lucky. Somebody was in the right place at the right time and they are perfect for the role. They have all the skills, they have the temperament, you get on well, everything is a roaring success and all live happily ever after. However, sadly, this isn’t the norm. A simple rule to remember is; “just because they can, doesn’t mean they should.”

A few things to bear in mind:

  1. You are not doing anybody a favour by asking somebody to do a job they can’t do. 
  2. You are not helping anybody out by agreeing to a request from somebody to do a job that they are not able to do.
  3. Making a wrong decision is expensive!
  4. Making a wrong decision is waste of time!
  5. Making a wrong decision just upsets all involved.
  6. Making a wrong decision will mean you just have to go through the whole process again.

It’s best to take your time over such things. Don’t appoint somebody just because there is nobody else. If they are not right for the role then that’s it. End of story. Remember that undoing this decision is going to be a drawn out and painful process. It’s worth taking your time and getting it right first time.

This can be difficult. There is a temptation to either put somebody in post because they really want the role. Or to appoint because you really need the position filled.  But it is best to not appoint at all then to make the wrong decision. Taking your time and waiting for the right person may mean that the existing team need to work harder for a while. It may me somebody in the team doesn’t get the promotion that they have been after. It may mean the new initiative that you want to kick off will need to wait. But all these things are better than the alternative.

Resist the quick fix. Take your time. Get it right.

  • http://www.boagworld.com Marcus

    Many a true word there Rob though I’m worrying a little that this observation is borne of a recent wrong decision!

  • http://www.boagworld.com Marcus

    Blimey Rob, you moderate your responses! Tsk tsk…

  • http://www.thesambarnes.com Sam Barnes

    Hey Rob,

    Saw a Tweet about no comments on your blog and as a fellow web project manager I thought it was time to get a little supportive.

    Check out a few other web PMs on Twitter at #webpm.

    I agree with all that you say in your post, but having been in this position before feel it’s also worth pointing out how just sometimes, even when you think the person, or selection of people, available isnt really right for the job, the most amazing things can happen if you empower them.

    By throwing it their way, explaining the importance of the job, offering complete support throughout and most importantly of all, telling them youre trusting them completely (even if youre secretly a little nervous) can often work wonders. I have seen some really astounding results from people, Im ashamed to say I didnt think were really capable, on jobs in the past when they were given a task completely unsuited to them and out of their comfort zone.

    I know if its a skill like design its just not always possible, but sometimes I find true gems, hidden motivation and aptitude in people I least expect it from – its really taught me to judge people a little less early on!

    Keep the posts coming, hope to see you and the other Headscape PMs on the #webpm group soon


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