Before You Fire Someone

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One of the biggest drags on productivity is an employee who under-performs in their job. When someone’s not pulling their share of the load, you’re not getting your money’s worth from them, and probably not getting the job done.

 

Still, before even the most justified firing, most managers experience a slow, agonizing burn of their patience for a long time. Then one day, the pot boils over and in a fit of anger, the boss fires someone on the spot.

 

Big mistake!

 

To make firing a substandard performer as swift, clean, and painless for everyone involved, be sure to follow these ten steps.

 

Be clear about job performance expectations. Ideally, you have written guidelines for what work is to be done, and how it is to be done. You can’t hold someone accountable for unstated standards.

 

Provide timely, thorough and helpful feedback. Your primary goal is to help someone get up to speed, not build a case for dismissal.

 

Along with your coaching, document your observations. Keep a record of both progress and specific shortcomings.

 

Formally review performance in a scheduled face-to-face meeting. Explain to the employee that his or her performance is not acceptable and is not progressing as it must. Be specific. Cite examples.

 

After laying out your performance observations, give the employee an opportunity to provide you with information. Maybe the training was inadequate, the instructions confusing, the equipment deficient. Listen with an open mind. Be fair. And offer to be of help. Accept that you may need to play a very active role to help someone catch up to where they need to be.

 

Give the employee who is not making progress the opportunity to transfer to someplace else in the company, especially if he or she acknowledges that the job isn’t going well, and probably won’t. A poor performance in one area does not make someone a poor performer. They may be toiling in frustration because they are in the wrong job for their talents, skills, and interests.

 

Following your performance conversation, provide the employee with a written record of your review. Put a copy in your files, and send one to the human resources department.

 

Give the employee a reasonable opportunity to right the wrong. Sometimes simply bringing the deficient performance to someone’s attention, and letting them know that it matters, is all that it takes to get a wayward employee on the right path. Or you can even take him to a motivational speech event with the team.

 

Monitor progress closely. If you don’t see sustained correction, again, formally review the performance and be clear that continued employment is predicated on working up to your published standard. Don’t be oblique. At this point, deliver a clear ultimatum: Do the job as prescribed or you won’t have it. Period.

 

If, after coaching, encouraging and fairly evaluating the performance still lags, pull the plug cleanly and without delay. Don’t let the wayward employee linger in their post. When it’s time to make the break, do it directly, quickly, and clearly. Thank the person for trying, wish them well in a position that is better suited for them. And then see to it that they depart for their new and inevitably better life.

One other thing. With new hires who quickly don’t look as good on the job as they did in the interview, correct sooner rather than later. And be prepared to fire in the same manner.

 

Quickly intervene the moment you detect that the new employee is off course. If, after providing ample feedback and support, you don’t see serious correction, act swiftly. No one is served by prolonging the prelude to the inevitable. The sooner you cut a subpar performer, the sooner you can devote your energies to getting someone better suited into the position and performing at full throttle.

 

If you have a probationary period, use it; don’t wait. Do everyone a favor and eliminate the misery sooner rather than later. That is always in everyone’s best interest.

 

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