Firing is About an Underlying Commitment to Retaining Great People
The former General Electric leader Jack Welch earned the moniker “Neutron Jack” for sacking some 100,000 employees in the early years of his tenure as chief executive. Welch defended the dismissals by emphasizing that it would have been far more heartless to keep those employees and lay them off later when they had little chance of reinventing their careers. The dismissals were part of his deliberate efforts to establish a corporate culture that emphasized honest feedback and where only the “A players” got to stay.
Many Fired Employees Feel Surprised That the Axe Didn’t Fall Sooner
Managers know that ending a bad fit sooner is better than doing it later. Firing a bad employee is often better for both the employee leaving and the employees remaining.
Then again, many managers hesitate because firing is awfully difficult. No one likes to fire people. Looking an employee straight in the eye and telling he’ll no longer have a job is one of the harshest things a manager will ever have to do.
Besides, some managers are so uncomfortable with conflict that they are unwilling to deal directly and honestly with a problem employee, not to mention of confronting the risk of a wrongful termination claim.
If an Employee is Not Working out for You, Fire Fast
By holding on to a bad employee, you are really doing a disservice to the employee. Forcing a person to be something he’s are not, and giving him the same corrective feedback—week after week and quarter after quarter—is neither sustainable nor considerate. Trying to keep the employee in the wrong role prevents his personal and professional evolution.
- Give the employee a chance to turn the situation around—people can change.
- Try to find him an appropriate role within your company. Recall the old Zen poem,
Faults and delusions
Are not to be got rid of
Look at the astringent persimmons!
They turn into the sweet dried ones.
However, if the employee is a truly bad fit, reassigning him just shifts the problem to a different part of the company.
- If your efforts to remediate a bad employee haven’t worked out, cut your losses and fire him promptly. Help the employee move on to a job or a company where the fit is much better.
Idea for Impact: It is much worse to retain someone who is not suited for his job than it is to fire him. Help him find a new role quickly and land on his feet.