The tough decision to let go of an employee is especially scary right now with so much uncertainty in the business world, but truth be told, it has always been intimidating. As someone who has done my fair share of firing professionals for the wrong reasons, I know all about the loss of sleep leaders experience over human capital decisions.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has caused many organizations to reduce expenses and resulted in millions of people being laid off. While this is understandable, evidence suggests that the immediate savings from layoffs can be canceled out by the longer-term cost of lost talent and skills. Since each organization’s situation is different, a lack of revenue might leave leaders with no viable choice other than layoffs or furloughs.
It’s the other kind of firing, I want to focus on today. Many leaders are using the pandemic to fast track a personnel decision they wanted to make for a while but couldn’t find the courage to make the move.
An executive in a medium-sized manufacturing business, a student in the Ultimate Leadership Academy, said to me, “The pandemic has allowed me to make some personnel decisions, I should have made a long time ago.”
While being opportunistic is a quality I typically admire in leaders, it’s not something I admire when it comes to letting people go. This scenario isn’t unlike that of many other leaders who assume they embrace accountability because they aren’t afraid to fire someone. It couldn’t be further from the truth, because:
Firing someone is the lowest form of accountability.
Leverage Correct Accountability First
Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people. Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents.
If a team member struggles with performance or hurts the culture of your team, it’s time to turn up the correct accountability. Use these steps to help:
- Have a candid conversation about the current situation. If they are falling short in a particular area, have a Direct Dialogue with them which I wrote about here. Share both the standards and evidence of the current situation and do it with courage.
- Encourage and coach them to improve. Nothing good will come of your candid conversation if you don’t follow it up with encouragement and coaching to help them grow. Dedicate time, energy, and effort to help them improve before making a final decision.
The Lowest Form Doesn’t Mean It Might Not Be Required
There will always be people who choose not to meet the standard or aren’t in the right role to be successful. No amount of conversations, encouragement, or coaching will make the difference. If someone isn’t the right fit for your team or organization, and you keep them in a position, you not only hurt them, but you hurt the team.
If you get to this point and answer “yes,” to the question, “Have I done all I can to help them be successful?” Then it’s time to move on. While the news could hurt them in the short term, show that you care for them by finding their next job in another part of the company or outside of it.
Deciding to fire someone isn’t to be taken lightly. These decisions can change the trajectory of companies, teams, lives, and families. But you wouldn’t be in your current position if you weren’t capable of making the decision to coach them up or move on.
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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is currently scheduling virtual workshops and keynotes. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.