Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Letting employees go, part of Performance Review Foundations.
One of the most difficult things you'll ever do as a leader is make the decision to fire someone. The only thing more difficult is actually letting them go. Because the process involves risk for everyone involved, we need to think through exactly how to make and execute this decision. To be clear, the performance review is not necessarily the time to let someone go. It can, however, be a crucial part of the process of documenting performance as you continue making decisions about a person. So, I'd like you to consider the possibility of letting someone go from a review process perspective.
Let's think about what to do during your preparations, during the meeting, and following the meeting. During your preparation, when you're examining the data for a person you feel might be a candidate for termination, I want you to consider these issues. First are they consistently a below average performer. If so, have you made 2-3 attempts to provide needed feedback and help so the person can get back on track. If the answer is yes, have there been 2 or more of these that have been documented? Which could mean the use of clear language in an evaluation, a letter in their file, or maybe a performance improvement plan.
Next, have other employees begun to complain about the under-performing person? If so, this is a strong signal that the person has begun to make a dent in overall team morale and productivity. In the presence of these factors, it's time to ask yourself about the deal breakers. The deal breakers are the things that must change clearly and immediately in order to justify keeping this person on your team. These might include interpersonal behaviors or task behaviors. If they are to be salvageable, what must they do right now? Be very specific.
Write them down as a formal part of your review. When you get to the actual meeting you'll precede as always, walking through the sections of the review, sharing your scores and comments and responding to their questions. But when it's time to summarize, you have to ask them a few tough questions. For example, you've been through more than one review now without clear improvement. Are you committed to this job? Also, try this one, Do you understand that eventually, your job could be in jeopardy? I want you to say this respectfully. It's not a threat, but an honest signal that needs to be sent.
Then watch how they respond. Make a mental note about whether they seem surprised, bothered or indifferent. If they're surprised, assuming you've done all the prep work the way you're supposed to, that likely means they are disconnected and not capable of processing additional feedback. If they seem bothered, this is a good indicator that they fear losing their job and might genuinely want one final chance to get on the right track. If they seem indifferent, they've already checked out in their mind and concluded that they won't be around very long.
Take those mental notes, then actually write down notes about what they say, for the record. What they say to important questions like these may, in fact, become a vital part of the documentation used during a termination. Then it's time to discuss the deal breakers. Very clearly specify the behaviors to change and outcomes to be achieved in the immediate future. Use clear examples and be sure they hear you accurately. You're not telling them, do these things or you will be let go.
You're simply sending the strongest possible signal about the need to change before you consider the option of letting them go. Last, but not least, it's time to seek proper counsel. You've documented performance correctly over time, provided multiple opportunities to improve and now you've asked the tough questions. It's time to speak with your boss and the appropriate HR representative. You want to be sure your approach is inline with company norms and policies. If they are, you're prepared to make the final decision should that decision become necessary.
Managing a team can be very fulfilling, full of good feelings and even moments of joy. It's also true that sometimes you've got to make very difficult decisions. Thinking about letting someone go can be stressful. But, it's your job and it's worth it. Because even though it's important for you to do the right thing for the problem employee, it's even more important to do what's right for the team.
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The information contained in the following course is provided with the viewer's understanding that the course should not be used as a substitute for consulting a human resource professional at your company for specific guidance. Lynda.com and LinkedIn expressly disclaim liability for any damages, loss, or risk, incurred as a direct or indirect consequence, from the use and application of any content herein.
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- Understanding the performance cycle
- Setting performance goals
- Collecting performance data and feedback
- Writing the review
- Discussing performance with an employee
- Using a performance improvement plan (PIP)<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.