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Fire When Ready

Mark Crocker - April 2, 2024 - 0 comments

The real problem with poor performing employees is us. If you want to feel better about yourself we will concede that on rare occasions and for a small percentage of the working population there are some people who just don’t want to play by any rational rule set – those very few that thrive on their ability to create chaos.

That comfort is short lived though because in being honest with ourselves we must recognize that we create 99% of problem employees. We created a poor job description, we recruited the wrong person, we provided inadequate training, we were unclear with our expectations, we didn’t address the areas we were happy to compromise over. Equally we failed to provide regular honest and open feedback and we failed to intervene early when the first warning signs of potential failure became apparent.

How many of us after recruiting a new hire have a formal conversation with the new employee about the gaps that were identified during the hiring process? If we don’t do that then the new employee has every right to think that they have all the skills and capabilities to be successful in the role. Truth is that the Personal Development Plan should be instigated at work on day 1.

Equally, how many of us feel under pressure and take on a person just to get the team back up to establishment? It’s a body after all isn’t it? They must be able to help and share the workload mustn’t they? The reality of course is that an underperforming employee takes an inordinate amount of time and effort to get them back on track and drags efficiency down. If you don’t turn their performance around then you are back where you started – even more behind the eight ball than when you started this whole recruitment thing.

Consider also how many of us ignore those early warning signs that all is not well. Perhaps tardiness, a lack of engagement, errors, omissions, the inability to relate well to others? Worse still we ‘hope’ things will improve. Things will sort themselves out……..probably.

Our reaction is a simple one usually isn’t it? Obvious really – just fire them. Indeed this might be the appropriate response but do we then go out and make the same mistake all over again? Essential for any organizational learning is the exit interview and when these are done well they can establish some of the fundamentals around why it went wrong and why potential was not fulfilled. However, if we do not use the learnings or just dismiss them as simply worthless feedback from a disgruntled employee then we are missing an opportunity.

We need to be clear on the root cause as to why we have wasted time, energy and dollars on an individual only to cast them aside when performance does not meet expectations. Organizationally we need to gather that data and make changes to our human resource frameworks. We might need to re-write job descriptions, change the orientation process, ask different questions in the interview or invest money in leadership capability to name just a few.

When you actually have to fire someone, you need a clear conscience from the perspective that you did everything possible to provide an environment for the individual to be successful. If your conscience isn’t quite as clear as you would have liked, then count yourself lucky that companies rarely fire the hiring manager of a poorly performing employee. Perhaps if that became more common, leaders might invest just a bit more time in creating successful employees…

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