It’s always more pleasant to tell someone, “We’re happy to welcome you to our company,” than “We’re sorry, but we have decided to let you go.” Hiring and firing are vital elements of sound leadership, and each has a profound role in creating a talented workforce now and in the future. As a manager, however, the question often arises, “Should we try to fix or fire this employee?”
Fixing an Employee
Many managers agree that by the time they got around to firing someone, it was long overdue. When dealing with a problematic employee, a question you might ask yourself is, “If this person wasn’t already employed here, would I have hired this person today?” If your answer is “No,” fixing may not be an option.
Who Failed Whom?
In the real world, few employees want to be fixed—they want to be taught, coached, inspired, and motivated. Problems often arise with managers who fail to establish the performance criteria by which the employee will be evaluated. However, if you’ve provided corporate business training, clear expectations, constant individual support and reinforcement, the first step in attempting to fix an employee is to address his or her infraction the first time.
Beware the Quick Trigger
The manager who is constantly hiring and firing people is not necessarily serving his company’s best interests. Starting over with new employees time and again is not helping the company’s leadership development interests in moving forward. On the other hand, if the manager does not act on the employee others know is not performing, it reflects poorly on the manager and may encourage others not to perform to their potential. Retaining such employees does them no favors.
To Fix or Fire
Ask yourself if fixing is a viable course of action. Does the employee regret his or her substandard performance? Does he or she accept or resist the suggestions and coaching necessary to change? Are there any signs of improvement? Is he or she at least trying to do better? Are you holding this person accountable for your expectations? If so, efforts to fix his or her performance are likely worthwhile.
When to Fire
The only time to immediately terminate an employee is when the person has done something so egregious that he or she doesn’t deserve a second chance. The human resources department calls these conduct infractions. Most of the time, firing is necessary when— in spite of corporate communication counseling and a fair warning—the employee shows no interest in or effort to improve poor performance.
There Are Exceptions
Although a blend of company policy and common sense can usually determine whether an employee should be terminated, there are times when intuition and sound judgment can play significant roles in your final decision. For example, if the employee has been with the company for a long time, it might be a good idea to sit with him or her alone for awhile and discuss the issue in detail. As often as not, the results can be eye-opening. Also, the most sympathetic employee you’ll ever fire is the hard worker who can no longer do the job. You should do everything possible to help this person. Sometimes, just moving the employee to another job description might be your answer.
Scott Deming is an experienced businessman, motivational speaker, and management consultant. To improve the connectivity between your organizations, contact Scott Deming today.