Management Myth #6: I Can Save Everyone


Not every employee is salvageable, and it’s almost always a case of cultural fit. If you’ve provided honest and open feedback and the employee can’t or won’t change, it’s up to the manager, or the self-managing team, to help the employee move on.

“Everyone is worth saving. Everyone is worth saving.” Jimmy was muttering under his breath as he walked into my office. “Hi, Steve. I’m here for our one-on-one. I have a real problem.”

“OK, let’s hear it.”

“Frieda is a problem in my group.”

“Jimmy, we have discussed Frieda before. I thought you were going to put her on a get-well plan last week?”

“But, Steve, everyone is worth saving!”

“Jimmy, listen to me. It’s time to do a little addition. How many people do you have in your group?”


“And how much time do you have to spend with them in a week?”

“About twelve hours total. That’s it.”

“How much time have you spent with each of them this past week?”

“Um, I have to think.” Jimmy spent a few seconds thinking. Then he stopped and paled. “I haven’t spent time with anyone except Frieda.”

“So, you have spent all of your time with the person who is delivering the least, right?” Jimmy nodded.

“And none of your time with the people who deliver the most, right?”

Jimmy nodded again.

“Does that sound reasonable to you?”

Jimmy slowly shook his head.

“So why do you think you can save everyone? Why do you think everyone is worth saving?”

Jimmy sighed. “Steve, Frieda is a nice person.”

Steve agreed and nodded.

“She needs a job.”

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website,, as well on

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