Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The graphic for terminations is blank for a very good reason. In spite of what the human resources people will tell you, there is no right way to terminate people. Yes, there is the three-step method:
  1. Agree there is a problem
  2. Agree on what is required to correct it and by what specific date
  3. Agree on the consequence if the corrective action does not occur
You cannot be an excellent leader unless you are prepared to get the wrong people off the bus. However, it is never easy.  There are people you want to march to the door immediately, and they deserve it. There are people who just cannot get along. There are those who will not follow the playbook. There are people who just continue to insist that the organization should go south, east, or west rather than north. There are people in over their head—they do not have the KASH needed for the job. Then there are those who seem to everything needed to succeed, but for whatever reason, including bad luck, just cannot seem to achieve the objectives. You have an obligation to put someone new in their spot who you believe can take the company where it needs to go.
When you cut through all of the reasons, it comes down to two groups of people:
  • Those who deserve to be terminated and got there without any help from you, and
  • Those who are hiring or promotion mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes, but if you are in a leadership position then you either are up to the job of correcting those mistakes—or you are the one that needs to be on the street looking for a job. As hard as it is at times, it is your job to build a winning team and that means cutting people as well as giving new people a chance to play on the team. If it is your mistake, you need to go the extra mile to help the individual move on to a position inside or outside the company where you believe they can be successful. That means giving them the time to relocate or at least providing them with a generous separation arrangement.
We live in a very litigious period and our government is always coming up with laws and regulations designed to protect employees from employers. The hiring and firing functions are minefields that have to be navigated with great care.
When it comes to hiring for example, it is your job to determine if a candidate fits the job picture: “Can and will they do the job in this environment with these people.” There are all kinds of interview questions that are off the table because of government rules and regulations. That makes your job of hiring the right people harder, but that does not relieve you of your responsibility. You have to know the rules, and you have to acquire the skills to get the job done within those rules.
When it comes to terminations, it is one thing to terminate someone immediately for misconduct; it is altogether different when there is no misconduct. Fairness requires that you deal with each case in light of the circumstances. Yet at the same time, treating people differently exposes you and the company to the risk of litigation. That is why many companies have rules providing for notice or separation pay based on length of employment. Nevertheless, before there is an issue of termination, there is nothing to prevent you from counseling an individual about where their talents lie and what their future prospects are within your organization. There is nothing to stop you from helping someone secure a position elsewhere. The best resolution of a hiring or promotion mistake is one that does not result in termination.
The idea of “In this environment with these people”, means that just because a person did not work out in a particular situation does not mean that they will not be a success elsewhere. That is an important message. It is particularly important in those situations where a hiring or promotion mistake has occurred. The concept is helpful when counseling an individual about their future. It helps when recommending someone to other employers.  If counseling does not solve the problem, the concept is helpful when you terminate a person.  You can do so without branding them as a failure. Your action is only communicating that the individual it did not work out in this environment with these people, but that does not necessarily mean that the individual will not succeed elsewhere.
As for the people who earned a termination without any help from you, you owe them nothing.
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Join me at the Southern Book Festival this Friday October 11, 2013.  I will be discussing and reading from my novel, The Claret Murders, in room 29 of the Legislative Plaza from 4:00pm to 5:00pm. Then from 5:00pm to 5:30, I will be signing books on the War Memorial Colonnade. 

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