In any business it’s often said that replacing a poorly performing employee is costly and we may be better off to work with that individual to help them become what their company, department or team needs. Whereas this is understandable, there are instances when, regardless of what one has tried and whether the problems has to do with motivation, knowledge or work habits, the individual is simply not able or willing to become and provide what is needed. When this realization is present, it’s time to make the tough decision or recommendation to cut losses and find a replacement.
There are some definite and undeniable signs that are great indicators that the time has come to bite the bullet and seek a replacement for a marginal employee. These include:
- Productivity is down
Perhaps we’re not certain of the ‘something’ taking place behind the scenes that are bringing this about. What we are certain of is that with one person not carrying their expected load, the othersrelying on them are also impacted. Deadlines are threatened and output falls behind with the potential of both internal and external dissatisfaction.
- Poor behavior is on the rise
It’s reflected in a few ways that become standout and a diversion to the work that needs to be done. It is often evident in a range of ways including unreliable attendance, lack of cooperation with co-workers, unwillingness to take direction, doing what they want when they want and generally insensitive to the needs and requirements that will result in success to the organization or project.
- Group morale is down
When others in the company, department or on the team witness someone on whom they rely, able to get away with ongoing underperformance they are likely to adopt an attitude of ‘what’s the difference if I do my work as expected’. Seeing another get away with mediocre work output and/or attitude, is demoralizing and can impact the entire interrelated group.
- Complaining customers
This is always and should be a major concern and when an investigation identifies any of the above as a source of the complaints, one knows that the problem is real and out of hand. It is this jolt that has often led a decision maker to find the strength to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation and move on by replacing the under-performing person.
In no way am I suggesting that making replacement and/or termination decisions are easy. Regardless of how justified they are, it still comes down to having to tell another person that they are failing at their job and letting them know that the organization (team or department) simply can’t afford to have them a part of it. In a humane sense, letting the person know that regardless of effort made on both sides of the equation, the job is not a good fit for them or the company. In recognition of this, encouraging and allowing them to resign eliminates any stigma of a lost job on their personal record … something they will find themselves needing to explain for years into their future. Whether or not they take advantage of this approach, the fact remains that they must leave the company.
In summary, there are a couple of meaningful benefits to recognizing that an individual is simply not destined to remain a part of the overall effort. First, the sooner this is recognized and acted upon, the less of an investment that is being made that is only an unproductive cost to the organization.
Second, is the fact that when you eliminate poor performers you actually reward and encourage those who are doing the job that is desired and needed. I have always found that when a leader in any capacity acts on the decision to let a non-performer go, stop and listen, for you will most likely hear the applause of others asking themselves and you as leader ‘what took so long?’.