let employees go

The Struggle Of Deciding To Let Employees Go

If Now Isn’t The Time, Then Get A Plan

As it should be, many leaders and business owners really struggle with the decision to let employees go, even if that person is problematic to the organization.

On the one hand, this is a positive thing because it means you care about your people and you want to see them succeed. More importantly, it provides a level of certainty to the entire workforce, in knowing that just because someone makes a mistake at some point, they aren’t at risk of losing their job. No one wants to work for the “find them and fire them” boss.

On the other hand, hanging on to an employee who isn’t really working out, often creates a lot of problems, not just for you but for everyone. Whether it is attitude or competence, they create more work for others, are distracting, and often cause issues in meeting customer commitments.

In my experience, there are generally a couple of key reasons why people avoid making the decision to let someone go:

  • They know too much – whether that be they know proprietary information or information that have never been documented, losing the individual could hurt the business.
  • You are too close – in some cases the person is a family member, or it could be that you socialize personally, so losing the individual could hurt your relationship.
  • They are too close to your customers – it could be that your customers think they are great and you are afraid that losing the individual could hurt your customer retention.
  • No one to replace them – it could be there is no one available to fill the gap and you are afraid obligations won’t be met and it will hurt your company’s reputation.
  • Hate the process – it could be that you are afraid of the potential for confrontation and you could hurt someone’s feeling.

The reason I coined it as hurt, in that making the decision to remove or not to remove someone is “hurting” something. Most times when confronted with this type of decision, business owners look at this from one side, “What or who will I hurt if I let them go?” but often don’t consider, “What or who will I hurt if I let them stay?”

They minimize the impact of the person staying and in doing so, make the individual the priority instead of themselves and the rest of the team, until it is too late.

Time To Get A Plan

I know how tough these decisions can be but putting your head in the sand and hoping that somehow things will work out, doesn’t work either. Choosing not to do it today, doesn’t mean it might not need to happen in the future, so its time to face up to your business’s vulnerability and build a plan.

  • They know too much – build a plan to cross train employees, document key process, have employee’s sign non-disclosure agreements, etc.
  • You are too close – look at your social circles and make some adjustments, talk about what other options could look like for the person, encourage some training in a different area, etc.
  • They are too close to your customers – time to do some re-connection of your own, assign different reps to accounts, build different customer interfaces, etc.
  • No one to replace them – put in some succession planning, look at sub-contracting portions of the work, move people around a bit, change some job structure, etc.
  • Hate the process – find someone to help you external to the business, get some training, define the process, figure out severance options, etc.

Now some of you are going to think in creating a plan, you are expecting the individual to fail in the future. That isn’t the case. The truth is, there should be a plan for most of your employees. Circumstances can arise where people are not able to continue to work, so it is only good practice to make sure you don’t get in a lurch.

Recognize all leader hope everyone of our hires will be successful and that we have the capability of creating a harmonious workplace where everyone can flourish. Reality is, if you were to create this, then you wouldn’t have a company that grows and thrives. Companies grow on challenge and differences not on harmony and complacency.

A problem employee surfaces when their skills don’t align with what is required or when their values don’t align with those of the company. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. It just means a different solution is required. Sometimes it isn’t the right time to let an employee go, but don’t stick your head in the sand. Put in a plan to mitigate your risk, and that way you can make the right decision for you and your business.

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