Worse than the brilliant jerk? (Apparently so)

While the Brilliant Jerk has taken the spotlight for their non-team playing and arrogant behaviour, The Economist has identified a more troubling phenomenon that is often overlooked:

The Nice Underperformer.

These individuals are friendly, amiable, but ultimately, they contribute more to the culture than they do for the bottom line.

The talented jerks are easy to spot, but apparently the Nice Underperformers are like carbon monoxide, silently poisoning an organisation.


The Economist talks about it like they turn up on Day 1 ready to clog up your culture with their low ambitions and negligible talent.

I couldn’t disagree more.

For a start, who do these Nice Underperformers report to? What are their 121s like? And what about the support, feedback and challenge they regularly get?

If they didn’t arrive like this, what happened along the way?

Probably a spoonful of unclear expectations, a dash of poorly timed feedback, and a collection of well-meaning but untrained managers.

It’s time to stop pointing the finger and work out what to do instead.

  1. Train managers to conduct excellent one-to-one meetings
  2. Teach them how to bring accountability into their teams
  3. Ensure that difficult conversations aren’t actively avoided

These 3 ideas are NOT earth shattering.

But when implemented effectively you won’t end up with Mr and Mrs Mediocre.

By addressing the Nice Underperformer issue head-on, we can create a high performance environment for everyone.