Terminating an Employee? Three Questions You Must Ask First.
In the learning curve of leadership, there are a number of common mistakes leaders make. But without a doubt, holding on to the wrong person, in the wrong job, is one of the biggest. Sometimes leaders retain people because they have crossed the line and are too close to the employee. Or maybe they lack confidence to take action. In our extensive experience, when this happens the boss employs the “Hope Strategy”. Simply put, they hope the person will change for the better. However, as you probably know, “hope” is never a strategy, particularly when it comes to managing employee relations. In reading this, you may have someone in mind—a person who has received a lot of “second chances” thanks to you. Think you’re really doing him or her a favor? Truth is, you’re not. It’s really a disservice to you, your organization, and, perhaps most importantly, the person you are “hoping” will change for the better. Given this, you may have some tough decisions to make. But letting go of a problematic hire is part of a leader’s plight—most have to face it at one time or another. Call upon your courage and ask the right questions to ensure this decision is one you can confidently make.
MAP consultants see this issue crop up all the time in their leadership coaching. In fact, companies can be comprised of a number of people who aren’t good for the organization’s health or performance but yet leaders hold on to them like they’re glue. To be fair, terminating people on your team isn’t something to be taken lightly. Here are 3 questions you must ask yourself:
1. Have you provided all the right training and resources?
It’s always possible your people might be missing certain skills to do their jobs. If you’ve hired them under the understanding that they have them but they really don’t, then that’s one thing. But if you’ve hired them and then your expectations change in regard to a need for additional skills that they don’t have, then that’s another thing. In that case, it’s your responsibility to make sure they have the training and education provided to support their professional growth and meet the new demands you’ve set. With this training should come accountability, or a way to measure and track their progress and then performance. Also, you need to provide them with the resources to do their jobs. If you don’t, yet expect them to become more efficient or productive, that may be too tall an order—and yes, it’s not fair to terminate them. In this case, you need to get them the training and other support needed for the job.
2. Have you been honest and candid about their performance?
Measured performance is honest performance—but only if it’s discussed in a consistent, transparent fashion. The MAP Management System uses its Vital Factor Team Meetings to hold people accountable for their performance, using measurements around their Vital Few responsibilities. But you can also hold daily, weekly or monthly “team huddles” and one-on-one meetings to further bolster accountability, a candid culture, and truth around performance. When you do all these things, it’s both impossible to hide realities around someone’s success or failure toward goals and relative to their actions and mindset. When you focus on accountability, it makes it more about the problem, not about the person. When it comes time to let that person go, they’ll know why it’s over—no surprises.
3. Are you holding on simply out of hope?
In our MAP workshops, we talk about how hiring the wrong person results in spending 80% of your time managing these people and the problems that can arise. Meanwhile, these people can be wreaking havoc on your company’s performance and others’ morale, undermining productivity and everyone’s respect of you. If you’ve given problematic hires the training and resources they need, have been honest and communicated the truth behind their poor performance, yet still haven’t terminated them, it’s quite possible you’re just holding on because you believe they’ll change somehow, someday. You can’t hope your problems away, however. Take steps to face that fear and courageously lead yourself through the discomfort. Before you lose too much time, money, or other A+ team players, address the problem once and for all, even if it means making that very tough call.
What have been some of your struggles with letting go of a problematic employee?