It´s interesting that with all the radio and print interviews I have been doing to promote my book, the topic people are most fascinated with is how to know when it is time to fire people.
(So that you do not buy my book, High Impact Middle Management, under false pretenses, let me first say that techniques to fire people is not a focus of my book. I offer managers and leaders a few tips, but this is not a central theme.)
Here´s what I have been saying about the topic:
I have coached a lot of managers on the topic of when and how to fire. To me, there are just a couple fundamental questions that need to be asked:
1. Have you really been honest, candid, and CLEAR with the person about which aspects of his or her performance is not adequate? The answer is most often NO, so please challenge yourself on this point. Weak half hearted attempts do not count.
Does not count: "Bob if would be nice if the project were brought in on time."??
Does not count: "Bob, you´re really great at talking to the customers, but your follow through is not so good."??
Does not count: "Bob, I know you were put in a difficult position, I would have had a hard time dealing with the stress……."??
Does not count: "Bob, the boss will be a lot happier if, at the end of the month, we met our numbers. Can you give it your all in this final week?"??
I know that we want to be nice, but being unclear and weak is not being nice – it´s setting someone up for a rude awakening. Unless someone does something egregious that warrants immediate termination, he or she deserves to be told what´s really going on.
What´s really going on: Employee A, we will call him Bob, is not performing adequately and is in danger of losing his job. Bob is doing or not doing something that is NOT OK and he may end up unemployed.
We don´t like to think or talk like this, but let´s face it, that is the reality.
It is easier to be clear about missed deadlines, costs, and breakdowns, for sure. If you have someone who no one wants to work with, it is tougher, but it can be articulated in a clear and effective manner. (If you have a particular situation you are battling with, send in an "Ask Lisa"?? question and I will offer my thoughts.)
2. After being clear about what is not working, have you provided the employee with follow-up, support, and additional clear and candid feedback? Again, the answer is often NO (although this point may be mute because most managers don´t do #1).
If you have done #1 and #2 and the employee is not performing adequately – terminate him or her without delay. If it´s the right thing to do, your team members are waiting for you to have the courage to solve this problem so that the team can move on.
Note/caveat/small print: This advice is predicated on the assumption that the performance problem is really a problem. In other words, what Bob is doing or not doing that is NOT OK is something important and valid. I have had several situations where a manager tells me about something "Bob"?? is doing that they think is terrible and my response is, "so what?"?? It´s a big deal when people lose their jobs, make sure you do not fire someone for something that really does not matter in the scheme of things.
The best way to avoid having to fire someone is to hire the right people and be a great manager.