Solution Saturday: Afraid to Fire People
What would you say to leaders who are afraid to fire people?
I have two clients who are afraid to let go of employees. One has to let someone go who is manipulative and is a headache for everyone – except one valued employee who he befriended. They are afraid to let him go because this valued employee will be upset.
First of all, I’d be concerned if they weren’t at least a little uncomfortable with letting people go.
Second, please confirm any legal requirements for terminating employees in your area.
Explore reasons for possible termination:
Get clear about the reasons you’re talking about termination.
- Customer complaints.
- You wouldn’t hire them again, if you had the chance.
- Values collide.
- They intentionally ignore or violate clear instructions.
- Your team is de-energized because of a low performer.
- They excuse unacceptable behavior and don’t aspire to be better.
- They reject or persistently resist change.
History is one predictor of the future. If you’ve been trying to help for six months and things aren’t improving, another six months of the same thing won’t help.
What will you wish you had done six months from now?
The problem with passion to develop people is small progress becomes an excuse for unacceptable results. Tolerating incompetence or poor performance isn’t development.
Leaders endorse mediocrity when they sacrifice medium-term results in the hope of developing people.
Always act with the best interest of others in mind. Is this what’s best for our customers, team, organization, and the individual in question?
It’s not best to keep individuals who don’t fit.
Be as committed to their success on the day they walk out as they day they arrived.
Evaluate time usage:
Short-sighted leaders pour too much energy into poor performers.
- What are you doing for people who want to grow?
- How might poor performers distract you from maximizing others?
- How would you spend your time, if it wasn’t with poor performers?
Plan and practice the termination conversation, even if you might not use it. What does practicing the termination conversation teach you about this situation.
Ultimately, reluctance to terminate someone is about you, not them.
What should leaders avoid when it’s time to terminate someone?
What suggestions do you have for someone who is afraid to let someone go?
Being very cautions with termination but aggressive with correction (often over Coffee) is a formula that I am comfortable with…
Terminal means “the end” – I want to play that card only in “Must Do” cases.
..also watch out for ego! — especially keep your own in check, because you can, does not (necessarily) mean you should.
Thanks Ken. “Being very cautions with termination but aggressive with correction (often over Coffee) is a formula that I am comfortable with…? — Brilliant!!
I’m thankful for you.
Dan at the private firm where I was the CFO, I assisted the owners in firing a number of executives over the years. The firings always occurred on a Friday pay day if possible and occurred at the end of the work day.
The owners met alone with the person and did the hard job then they left and I came in to explain the financial details and that night or on Saturday morning help them clear out their office. I was often a peer of those being released and usually on good terms with them even after they left the company.
The two step process worked well.
Brad James, author The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. I’m thankful you shared your experiences.
#1. Why were they hired?
#2. Why were they promoted?
#3. How long were they tolerated?
Fixing #1 avoids #2 and #3.
Fixing #2 avoids #3.
Fixing #1 is easy.
Thanks Bob. Simplicity rocks! Isn’t it surprising that we can forget why someone was hired.
1. Have conversation early in the day with the personnel/HR/talent department rep present to deal with the paperwork.
2. Make expected departure time and reason(s) clear in your concise piece of the conversation.
3. Ask if the firee has any questions and answer them in order. I’d also make sure the personnel/HR/talent rep takes clear notes and be prepared to give the firee answers in writing before departure time.
4. Make clear this is the end of any employer/employee relationship between the firee and the company.
5. Hand it over to the personnel/HR/talent rep and keep your mouth shut for the remainder of the conversation.
Thanks Virginia. Your contribution reminds me that less is more. If it gets to this point, don’t drag things out. Don’t try to develop the person who is leaving in that meeting.
It looks like you’ve had some experience with this. Thanks for joining in.
Yup, I’ve been involved in six firings (fortunately, none of the firees belonged to me). But I learned some things by being assigned to be the fly on the wall and my list reflects what was done and some of the hows in those instances.
A friend and I were discussing this just yesterday; the owner of the company he works for simply cannot fire people. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy and fails to see that his inaction is causing pain and suffering all around.
This is so common in business it could classified as an epidemic.
The truth is, if a person repeatedly can’t or won’t perform, they are not engaged and need to be set free; it liberates everyone. The most common thought from the rest of the employees……”What took you so long?”
Terminating people is difficult, it should be, we’re human. In the end, every leader needs to learn to manage this necessary aspect of business swiftly, legally, fairly and responsibly for the health and well-being of everyone.
Thanks Brad. Love your use of “Liberate,” and “Set free.” In my thinking, those are more than platitudes. If we’re interested in what’s best for someone, liberation may be an authentic, caring thing to do.
By holding on to incompetency and mediocracy is horrenduous . The whole process affects all in the team and at the end of the day indicates self incompetence and management from top to bottom. Laying staffs off is hard . Its not only about self accountability but others as well ,too. No one says that it is a popularity contest. What needs to be done justs need to be and move forward!
Good evening Dan;
Very helpful advice my friend to anyone faced with having to let someone go.
No Leader like’s to be the person who has the responsibility to tell an employee,
“YOUR FIRED!” Unfortunately it’s probably the most uncomfortable task a leader
is asked to do.
There will be times when circumstances and conditions make it perfectly clear
that terminating an employee is not only justifiable, but also absolutely necessary.
Although this does little to restore the empathy you feel for the individual, it’s the one’s
you know whom gave an honest effort and tried their best but just couldn’t complete
task’s, required protocol’s, or grasp concepts necessary to perform the job satisfactorily.
(WARNING), occasionally leaders will face the rare individual that “just doesn’t give
uh _hit!” The Leaders level of professionalism should be ‘no different’ when dealing with
these individuals. It’s not necessary to belittle, insult, or berate anyone you must terminate.
To the ‘Sadistic Autocratic Leaders’ at large, remember this, “the true character of a person
is seen in the way they treat those who can do nothing for them.” If this is you, (BEWARE),
if fate would have it that the tables were turned and you are the one in the ‘Hot-Seat’,
“good luck cause your guna need it.” People don’t forget the actions of those that abuse
their authority seemingly finding pleasure playing a role in what amounts to no less than a
devastating situation no one wants to face.
Got to go Dan. Time for lunch…
Cheers my friend
Dan, I suppose #2 might be the back end of this issue, but I find one of the toughest things to evaluate for in hiring, difficult to catch quickly in the early months ( depending on degree), but ultimately a reason to let someone go is what we consider “team fit”. Doesn’t mean we don’t want different views, perspectives, and backgrounds, but ultimately they have to find a way to still mesh with the team culture. Our last 2 staff let go, were ultimately for this reason.
Recognizing when to let people go for some is not easy. However letting people linger in situations where everyone knows they should go does them a great disservice. I have seen many instances where employees become almost destructive to an organization and the owner refuses to recognize it. They get moved around from place to place in the hopes that everyone who is causing their problem is away from them. Finally when 3 or 4 decent employees threaten to quit or the performance is so bad, you are left with no alternative . Usually in these cases the employee doesn’t even see it coming. Because they have been sheltered or they think the moves were because of their “good” performance. Allowing your emotions to hold on to people can be a problem. Using facts, history, performance, to guide how you coach and ultimately promote or release an employee is something companies need to strive for.
Several young folks we have “let go” had gone on to great success in fields they went to school for. Running into them a year or so later they have even said “i dont know why i was hanging on” or ” i wish i had been kicked in the pants sooner’ Often employees themselves are afraid to take the leap and we managers just focus on our own goals of getting things done in our circumstance. never relating the reason for someone under performing.
Sometimes we try for too long to fit a piece of the puzzle into a space it will not fit into.
One last thought. a good friend once told me how to let someone go. He would sit someone down and look at them seriously and simply say “Johnny, It’s just not working out” he would look sad and they would look sad. The lesson I learned is that you dont always have to re hash everything someone did wrong to create more drama. Keep it as simple and professional as you can. It may help the former employee save a little face and move on more easily.