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Don't Procrastinate a Termination

September 18, 2010
by Tim Tolan
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Making room for impact players

Most of us want to give people a chance if their performance is below par–especially in these economic times. We have empathy when it comes to affecting the livelihood of those that we need to terminate–knowing the market while “heating up” your “pulling the trigger” may impact their ability to provide for their family. I have been in this position many times over the years and always took this responsibility very seriously.

I am a big believer in making sure people know where they stand when it comes to performance. Transparency is the order of the day–so no need to give false hope if you know they are not going to make it. I, in my former career, like many always tried to give an employee plenty of rope but also multiple warnings and feedback, so when the big day finally arrives it shouldn’t be a surprise. Others prefer to delay the inevitable based on their management style and preference to avoid conflict.
You are much better off dealing with a termination sooner rather than later for a variety of reasons, including;
• The non-performer is likely holding back your team
• Every employee knows they are a non-performer and that you are not dealing with it as their leader
• You imply that mediocrity is tolerated by your inaction
• Productivity is down because others are doing the work of the non-performer in addition to their own duties
• Morale is impacted because of your delay tactics
• Your leadership is challenged when you procrastinate

Dealing with non-performers sooner rather than later is the right way to build a world class team. Make room for impact players who can help you move the needle in your organization. The sooner the better!

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Comments

When it comes to terminations, Human Resources can either help the process or get in the way. I "inherited" a poor performer when a department was shifted to my cost center. It took my a few weeks before I knew I had a problem. I sat down with the employee and documented a performance correction plan. Her attitude demonstrated her lack of commitment to making things better. When I talked to HR they indicated I would have a problem with the termination because her previous supervisor had given high performance marks.
This was a classic case of a supervisor that wanted to be everyone's friend. It took me a very long time to gather enough documentation. I finally got the OK from HR to terminate the employee...a week before Christmas. Guess who dressed up as Grinch for the Office Christmas party?

Good points, however, severing an employment relationship is certainly a two-way street. Today, if an organization is not treating an employee "right", that employee can, and should terminate the relationship quickly. Former Northwestern University Professor James Carlini writes in a well known article (at: http://wistechnology.com/articles/7037/) that employee two-week notices are out of date and certainly not required.

Pete:
Truer words have never been spoken! Inheriting mediocrity is a huge problem and one that we see quite often. Glad you were able to document the non-performance and get someone productive on the bus!

Agreed - it is a two-way street. My point of this blog is around when a manager knows he/she has a performance issue and delays taking action. I also believe that ANY employee that is working for a BAD manager or in a POOR culture should take action as well. Life is too short and we all deserve to be happy. Thanks InfoNurse2010!

Tim, Your advise is sound for the non-performer, for someone who is miscast in their role and whose talents lie elsewhere.

Professor Carlini and InfoNurse2010 make a valid point, but, it too needs to be applied in context. For some roles, a six-week (6) notice is more professional, and it has implications that can improve your organization.  More in the next paragraph. For miscast A-players, an employee giving two-week notice are not out-of-date.  (Often, those miscast A-players have grown and can take on more responsibility, by the way.  Not true of the C-players, of course.)

When an executive self-terminates, being respectful of business continuity issues is a professional responsibility, too.  That's where six weeks and a transition process are ideal. For more, check this out: http://manager-tools.com/2010/09/my-boss-resigned-part-1

In either case, being decisive, transparent and quick is better for all involved. If you've been doing the rest of your management job, terminating a non-performer sooner rather than later is the best way to build a world class team.

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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