People don’t fire themselves
I have written many articles over the years about dealing with an employee’s underperformance through good leadership. I believe that, in most cases, termination can be avoided.
I have also written about the reasons why you might need to let someone go. For example, if you have a staff member who is repeatedly and willfully defying your authority – despite your caring efforts to help them succeed – there really is only one course of action. Another example would be when the staff member is incapable of doing the work required and you have no other position for them.
Once you have made the decision to let someone go, going through with it can be a nerve-racking experience.
I was party to two different termination situations in the past few weeks that will help me if I ever face a termination again:
- A leader confided in me about a termination they handled. The basis for the termination was that the employee was, among other things, willfully and maliciously defying the authority of their leader.
- In the second situation, a salesperson needed to be let go for the simple reason that they could not sell. They had missed their numbers three quarters in a row despite much coaching and despite record sales by the rest of the team.
In the first case, the employee was brought in and told they were being let go because of their attitude and behaviour. Their response?
“I can’t believe you let me act like this for so long! I would have fired me a long time ago.”
In the second case, the salesperson was told they needed to go due to their chronically low sales. Their response?
“If I were in your shoes I would do the same thing. I am just no good at this job. I think you should have done this a while ago.”
It seems that some terminations are not controversial at all. Everybody involved, including the person who needs to go, is on board with the decision. Of course, there is no way to know it will be as easy on the person doing the termination as these two cases were. It is obvious to me in these two cases that the termination was left way too long. The employee in each case had obviously given up any idea of being good at their job. They were both simply waiting for the inevitable termination and they certainly were not prepared to fire themselves.
The lesson here is that once your judgment says the problem can’t be solved any other way, get it over with quickly for the sake of all involved.
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