Your job as the leader of your business, or your team, is to get things done through others. Your success depends on it.
Your selection of the right team members is absolutely essential to your success. However, despite a careful selection process, not everyone you hire will work out. Your ability to “de-select” those who are not capable of doing the job in a competent and timely fashion is equally as important to your success as a manager and a leader.
Having to let someone go is probably the most stressful part of a manager’s role. However, unless you can effectively release the incompetent people from your team, you will have the second most stressful experience—that is being let go yourself. In fact, if you do not get some experience with the first, you will get some experience with the second.
Taking people on and letting them go, hiring and firing, is like inhaling and exhaling in our fast-moving business world. The fact that you know you can let someone go if they don’t work out makes you a much more effective manager. It makes you much more influential and persuasive in dealing with performance problems.
Often people may recognize their own incompetence in a certain role, but they lack the courage to quit the job and find more suitable employment. They need your help. One of the cruelest things that can happen is a manager keeping someone in a job that is inappropriate for their skills. On the other hand, many employees get in a routine of doing their jobs and may be totally unaware that their performance is unsatisfactory.
The first step in a professional de-hiring process is to ensure that you have done everything you can to train, coach and mentor your staff member. They need your help. Always try to save the employee.
As a start to the de-hiring process, ensure that you have comprehensive documentation of the steps you have taken in efforts to help the person to succeed. Begin with a review of the employment contract or a letter explaining precisely what the job is. Have someone with you when a performance discussion takes place so that you have both a witness and a calming influence during the meeting. After each meeting document the discussion with a memo to the person, summarizing your meeting and clearly identifying specific required changes in behaviour. After three such meetings, if the requested changes don’t result in positive changes, it is time for the next steps.
Prepare thoroughly for the severance process, including preparation of the severance package in advance. One week per year of employment plus one pay period is the norm. However, no severance pay is required by law unless it is in the contract.
For the de-hiring meeting, always have a witness present, and someone who can escort the person to collect their personal effects and then to the exit at the end of the meeting. The ideal place to tell your employee of the severance is in an office or meeting room away from your office. You must be able to get up and leave after you have shared your decision with the employee.
When it comes to telling the person of your decision to terminate their employment be firm, fair, kind and compassionate. It is essential to protect their self-esteem. Don’t rehash their failures or verbally beat them up. Just indicate that you have decided that this job is not the right fit for them and you think they would be happier and more successful elsewhere. You may need to repeat this a number of times. Explain the resources that are available in the severance package and wish the departing employee well.
For your protection, establish a de-hiring policy for your business. Seek legal advice and discuss the process with other senior staff so that it is done correctly and consistently.*
*Some of the strategies in this article are shared in the Strategic Leadership workshop series authored by Brian Tracy and facilitated by Peter Neufeldt of Peak Performance Consulting. Ph: 306-535-8526