Your Smart Victims Unit Is Ruining Productivity and Culture

dog lying on a doggie pillow looking sadLast month, a good client came to me with some concerns. He felt that his organization had been making great strides in defining their purpose, vision, and core values. He also felt like the work we had done together had really helped to restructure the organization and improve internal processes so that the organization was positioned appropriately to meet future goals.

But now, he felt the really hard part was kicking in – people issues. One of the key strengths of the EOS system is to help business owners get the right people in the right seats. However, sometimes that means moving or letting good people go, if there is no longer a seat for them.

My client was challenged because he felt like both he and his executives had a blind spot for certain people when it came to making decisions on the right people for the right seats. He found that they tended to overlook poor performance in certain people if they exhibited the following traits:

  • They are intelligent
  • They work hard
  • But, they act like a victim

These “victims” either always have an excuse for why something didn’t get done or seem to feel sorry for themselves with all of the work they have to do or new projects they have to take on. Their lack of performance and their “victimize” energy  bring the rest of the team down, but it’s hard to let these people go because they seem to work hard and they have the intelligence or skill set necessary for the job.

My client encountered so many of these situations that he named this group of employees the “Smart Victims Unit” or the SVU. He wanted to know if this was normal or common in other organizations or if this was a problem unique to him and his team.

The answer is, it’s VERY COMMON.

Do You Have a Smart Victim Problem in Your Company?

The hardest people decisions to make are when it seems like an employee is the right person for the right seat because they have the skills necessary, they work hard, and on paper they should be ideal. But they are bringing the team down. It’s so much easier to let someone go or move someone out of a role when there are strong performance issues, a lack of necessary skills, and plenty of documentation to support your decision.

So let’s define what it means to have the “right” people in the “right” seats.

The right person is one who embodies the company’s core values. They are the living, breathing personification of what the company believes, how it behaves, and the value it wants to deliver. It helps you determine who the right people are for YOUR business. Someone perfect for your business may not be perfect for another one.

The right seat means that the person has a role in the organization that fits them perfectly. They understand what they are expected to do, they want and embrace the role, and they have the expertise and experience to perform to expectations.

As I have explained to many of my business owner clients, employees need to have the skills and experience required to fill a key role, but they also need to fit in with the company culture and be willing to take direction and handle challenges as they come. Social intelligence, the ability to work well with others and navigate tough situations is very important. You can train people to acquire or hone skills if they have potential, but you can’t change someone’s personality. I often use an analogy of, “If someone is born with four fingers, you can’t make them grow a fifth.”  Do they have the drive and ambition to put in the hard work to be a part of your organization’s growth?

So, how do you overcome the blind spot or eliminate the Smart Victim Unit in your organization?

Take the Emotion Out of It

There are a few tools in the EOS Toolbox that can help take the emotion out of your people decisions – the Accountability Chart, the People Analyzer, GWC, and the 5-5-5.

First, the Accountability Chart™, which helps the leadership team define the structure for the organization needed to support its operation. Each seat defined should have five major roles and responsibilities associated with it to help understand the skills (hard and soft) that are necessary to perform in that seat.

I also use another tool with my clients called the GWC™, which stands for Get it, Want it, Capacity. At its core, the GWC helps you through three key questions:

  1. Does the person GET it—does he or she understand the role of that seat?
  2. Does the person WANT it—does he or she have the passion to do that seat’s work?
  3. Does the person have the CAPACITY to do it—does he or she have both the skills and the time for that seat’s responsibilities?

Usually, SVU employees fall apart when you really scrutinize the Get and the Want of the role. By using these structured tools, you’ll have the data necessary to evaluate people without emotion and see where gaps and issues need to be addressed. Having the Right People in the Right Seats help create a team that is unstoppable!

Next Steps

Related Posts

Revisiting the Rocket Fuel™ Toolkit

Have you ever looked at old photos and realized how much you’ve changed? The same is true of your business. Looking back over an old Vision/Traction Organizer® (V/TO) may make you realize you’re not the same company anymore.

Read on »

Prune the Leadership Team to Encourage Future Growth

When a business grows rapidly, it can look like a wild, overgrown shrub. The plant wastes energy trying to care for these wayward limbs. Likewise, business owners must look for “branches” diverting attention and energy from their vision. Sometimes, they need to prune the leadership team to encourage future growth.

Read on »

Subscribe to the EOS Blog

Subscribe to the EOS Blog:


Base Camp


Client Portal



Search the EOS Worldwide Blog

Skip to content