Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

By: MarkWeaver Monday March 9, 2015 comments

5 Questions to Help You Make Up Your Mind to Terminate

It can be a bittersweet thing to terminate an employee.  It shouldn’t be easy to turn off your emotions and go from being a boss who cares about employees to a boss who callously fires people.  That’s part of being human.  So is procrastinating.  Part of being a good leader though, is making tough decisions and following through with them timely, particularly when it means getting the wrong person off the bus.
In consulting with numerous really nice people over the years, I’ve found many business leaders err on the side of not making the inevitable happen quickly enough.  I’ve watched bad situations with a poor performer or bad fit go much worse, complicated by events that would not have occurred if the needed parting of ways had occurred when it should have.  As unsatisfactory employment continued on, the exposure to other things that have nothing to do with the performance become the very things that make it difficult to part ways with the unsatisfactory performer.  Be decisive and avoid that!
What’s a really nice boss to do to keep from getting stuck in a quagmire that cripples the company and does not serve the poor performer well… let alone the really great employees who want to see the company succeed?  The following are some questions to help you make the decisions you need to make:

  1.  Did we make a mistake?  Bad hires happen.  Sometimes we get snowed by sharp interviewing skills from an applicant who knows how to say everything we want to hear.  Sometimes we like something about an applicant and ignore the obvious red flags.  Sometimes the person who interviewed trades bodies with an entirely different person and the person who reports to work is not the person we would have ever hired.  Or something.  However it happens, when you realize it, act on it.  Failing to deal with this undermines your reputation with your great employees.
  2. Did we give him a chance to fit?  Not everyone will fit in your organization.  Be picky.  Have an Introductory Period.  Use it.  When someone isn’t a fit with your culture, your values, your norms and behaviors, it won’t get better with time.  If you know what is not acceptable and stay true to that, it shouldn’t take you long to figure out if a new hire is a fit – a month maybe.  The longer you let these things go on, the harder it gets to part ways.  Failing to do so erodes your culture to some kind of least common denominator.
  3. Did we give her a chance to prove herself?  Depending on the jobs you hire for, it could take several months to prove proficiency.  You should have an idea if sufficient progress is occurring by just a few months in.  Use that Introductory Period!  It’s the honeymoon period – so if you aren’t seeing the progress you should be, keep in mind this is as good as it gets; it will likely go downhill with time.  Failing to part ways with an employee who is sub-standard diminishes your brand in the eyes of your customers who are left to deal with someone who doesn’t adequately represent you.
  4. Are we seeing a resistance to change?  You may be tempted to let a nice person have more time to get used to your company, your job, your customers, or your systems.  Almost anytime you have to go beyond your normal Introductory Period you are seeing what the learning curve will look like in the future.  This will be replicated every time there is something new ahead – like new technology, new customers, new processes, new service lines… or just good old change.  If you are not willing to keep contending, you need to take action.  Failing to do so will bring you increased frustration over time as you encounter the same slowness to adapt with every change or new thing you introduce.
  5. Can this slot or FTE be filled with someone better?  Often while we are commiserating about someone’s poor performance or behaviors, there are all kinds of candidates out there with skills, talent, attitudes, and values that fit better.  Retaining someone who is less than what you really want or need is not in the best interest of your organization.  Failing to deal with this keeps you from finding the person who will make significant contributions to your strategic goals, delight your customers, and help you position your organization for long-term viability.

There are ways to part ways and still be a decent human being – even if the person you have to part ways with is a nice person who you don’t want to hurt.  It may not be easy, fun, or totally pain-free – but neither is getting paralyzed with inaction.
In a highly litigious society, there is always the threat of legal action – particularly if there are complicating factors such as potential claims related to illegal discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability, workplace injury, or retaliation.  Those can become issues where you need a good Employment Law Attorney involved – and I can recommend some really good ones who know employment law like the back of their hand.  But the risk is almost always greater (and more expensive) the longer things drag on.  Think about this - the percentage of terminations that result in a claim or legal activity compared to those that don’t is probably no greater than the risk you take in any other aspect of running a business – so it shouldn’t hamstring you in this one.
Open Door HR Solutions helps employers make the right decisions about employee issues such as these – and then follow through on them.
Mark Weaver
Open Door HR Solutions

About the Author: MarkWeaver


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