To Fire or Not To Fire
Firing someone is one of the most difficult things a manager will do. On the other hand, not firing when you should is one of the biggest mistakes a manager can make. One of the challenges is deciding if its better to drop the axe or give the person another chance.
To help us make the decision, lets imagine you have three people on your team.
The first, lets call her Diva, is very smart and gets along with most of the team. Her performance charts, however, are like roller coaster ride. She performs great when she feels like it, but she has been “unmotivated” lately and her performance has taken a dive the last few months. Facebook even reported a 1% increase in traffic due to her contribution alone in the past quarter.
Next up is Hope. She’s is a hard worker, gets along well with the rest of the team, gladly puts in extra hours to get work done and help the team when needed, never complains, and has a very positive attitude. However, she does not achieve her targets despite putting the extra effort.
Last but not least is Jack. He is one of the team’s strongest and most consistent performers. However he frequently clashes with a few team mates and is usually complaining about what is going wrong. Oh yeah, and he… like… gossips a lot.
So let start by looking at people who are under-performing. The first question is why. In Diva’s case, she clearly has the skills and capability to perform since she achieved great results in the past. She is not putting in the effort. Here’s what to do. Sit Diva down and discuss what the issues are. If there are issues you can address, then resolve to do that and follow up to show that you do your part. At the same time, you have to establish that Diva’s performance should not be conditional. Instil a sense of urgency and importance that she keep her performance up regardless of what issues she has. Conclude the meeting by setting your expectations for her performance. If Diva picks up, then all is glittery great. If she doesn’t, then Diva needs to find another stage (i.e. it’s time to fire her).
If we look at Hope, the effort is there, but there is a shortage of skill. It might be a simple skills such as time management she’s missing. Here you have a decision to make. If you believe there is hope for… em Hope… to develop the missing skills that will get her to perform and you are willing to dedicate resources (coaching and training), then go ahead. You can do the coaching yourself or assign someone else who is capable to do so. Everyone is happy when Hope picks up. You will have better performance and a loyal happy camper who is full of hope (I know… I’m stretching the name thing a little). She will also be happy to be performing well. If she doesn’t improve, and then the sad news is that you have to cut her loose. You can shift her into a different position that will fit her better if there is something else available. Keeping her on the job is bad for you, your team and for her (no one likes to be an underachiever). This is the toughest type of people to fire.
Finally, we have Jack. Some managers might hesitate with Jack because he is a top performer and losing him will affect the team targets. I say it is irrelevant how good of a performer he is. Having someone like that on the team is toxic. It will drain your energy, cause problems within your team, and more dangerously it can be contagious. If you want to give Jack a chance, then be firm about your expectations of him straightening out his attitude. Keep a close eye and if things don’t improve quickly, then tell Jack to hit the road. Keeping him on board means you want that attitude in your company culture.
There is something even more important to do once you sort out Diva, Hope, and Jack. Improve the way you hire and develop people so you can bring on board people who fit well and that you won’t have to fire.