You hired him.
After just three months, it’s clear that you made a mistake. His performance has been dismal.
Unfortunately, it’s time for him to go.
But who should have the tough discussion with him?
You owe it to him, to yourself, and to your remaining employees to do it yourself. This decision–and the discussion–isn’t something to be delegated to Human Resources or to another manager.
Look, this is the most difficult thing we do in business. No matter how many times you do it, firing always stinks.
I rarely sleep well the night before I have to tell somebody it’s over. I think about their spouse and kids. Sometimes I blame myself, particularly if I recruited the person from a secure job in another organization.
The simple truth is this: if you want to be a great manager–if you want to build a great organization–you must learn to fire people. (No, you don’t need to use the word when you do it.)
Every organization makes bad hires. The statistics are frightening: 46% of newly-hired employees (and 50% of executives) fail within 18 months of being hired or promoted.
If you don’t fire these underperforming employees or move them into more suitable positions, you’re hurting your company, your own career, and the employee who will never succeed in their current role.
To develop a high-performance organization, you must identify signs of employee failure early on. Is the person missing deadlines? Is their work product far below standard? Are they butting heads with other employees?
Once you spot a problem, the first step is to have a clear re-setting conversation. Establish clear expectations, provide the resources to improve their performance, and arrange frequent check-ins to assess and provide feedback.
After giving the person a chance to turn things around, how do you know when it’s time to fire? This is the litmus test I’ve developed over the years:
Does the employee have the will and the desire to do the job? Sometimes a person becomes so dispirited, they simply give up. If there’s no motivation to improve–move on.
Does the employee have the skill and ability to do the job? If the person is highly motivated, but lacks the right skills, coaching and mentoring may help. Or perhaps there’s a different position in the company that better matches their talents.
Is the person unable to adjust to the changing nature of the role? Jobs change faster than ever in today’s tech-driven economy. Some people can adjust. Others struggle. It’s tough, but if the person’s skills are no longer needed by your company, you have to let them go.
Is the person causing more problems than they are solving? Are you spending too much time cleaning up their messes? A person who leaves chaos, misunderstandings, and loose ends in their wake is a detriment to your business and should be discharged promptly.
Is there a sizable mismatch between the person’s DNA and that of your company? Culture is critical to organizational performance. If the person’s behavior and work style clash markedly with everyone else, discharge is probably the best course. DNA almost never changes.
Have you seen sufficient improvement to indicate that the trajectory is improving? This is the crux of the issue when deciding whether to discharge or continue employment. If the improvement exceeds their goals, that’s great news and it’s worth the chance to continue in their job.
Is your staff telling you that the person is in over their head? A strongly positive or strongly negative verdict from the people that work with the person is telling.
If they left the company on their own, how would you feel? If the answer is “relieved” or “indifferent,” then you already have your answer.
The Final Steps
Okay. You’ve made your decision.
You gave him the opportunity to improve his performance and evaluated the results. It’s clear that the best course is to part ways.
There’s no point in waiting. Gather your documentation, speak with your HR team, and schedule a time and place to let him know. Be sure to have another person present for the meeting.
Be direct, firm and brief. Simply state that the purpose of the meeting is to inform him that you’ve decided to terminate his employment.
Tell him the decision is final. There should be no re-hashing or debate about the issues that led to your decision. In my experience, the meeting will likely last no more than five minutes.
Be kind and emphatic. Don’t bring up the person’s shortcomings or blame the employee for holding back the organization. Reinforce that he will find fulfillment and success with another organization.
Hire Better, Sleep Better
Unfortunately, firing is part of business.
The best way to avoid firing people is to commit yourself to become better at recruiting. The more you increase your hiring accuracy, the fewer mishires you’ll need to address.
Stop hiring by gut feel, check references thoroughly, develop an objective selection process, and give every candidate a test drive before extending an offer.
You’ll sleep like a baby, instead of pacing the floors in dread.
Originally published by Forbes
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