I was on the phone the other day with an executive who wanted to discuss a problem employee that happened to be one of his top sales people. This in itself is not unusual, as I’m a trusted advisor to a select group of C-level executives. However, this executive and I seem to have the same conversation over and over again. I listened intently as he described the disruption this person was causing throughout the organization. “He plays by his own rules, which makes life extremely difficult for those who have to clean up after him, time and time again,” noted the executive. “His sales tactics are questionable, and seem to be leaving a bad taste in the mouths of our customers.” Yet, he brings in the revenue.
I told my client that he needed to remove this guy immediately, unless he wanted to replace everyone else on his team. Top sales people are worth their weight in gold, but not if they are weighing down the rest of the organization with their mishigas, which is Yiddish for nonsense.
Everyone tries to hire the best, although sometimes things don’t work out as planned. If you are in business long enough, you will experience situations where a good hire turns into a bad hire due to circumstances you could not have predicted. Here are five things to consider as you weigh out your options.
1. Can this situation be turned around? Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact moment that an employee’s performance has taken a turn for the worst. Perhaps it was the day an employee’s spouse filed for divorce, or when you fired the employee’s boss and left him to fend for himself. In situations like these, it makes sense to try to get the employee back on track, particularly if they have proven themselves to be a valuable employee.
2. How will your decision impact the rest of the team? In small businesses, where team members’ work relies heavily upon each other, the loss of just one member can send the team into a downward spiral. Of course, the same thing can happen if you allow weak links to remain in their positions. Business owners must carefully weigh out the pros and cons of releasing an employee before simply handing the employee his or her final paycheck. One factor to consider is the impact this person’s negative performance is having on the overall operation and the company’s reputation. Also consider the availability of staff to pick up the workload before a suitable replacement has been found.
3. How is this situation personally affecting you? Are you having difficulty sleeping at night thinking about this situation? Are your days being spent defending someone who you know has to go? Is your significant other tired of hearing you talk about it? It’s understandable that leaders share business situations at home with trusted loved ones. However, at some point you must take action. Make a decision, prepare to execute, and move forward. Anything less will result in additional stress for you and those around you.
4. Does the timing really matter? I’ve heard it all, including, “We can’t do this now because the audit is coming up.” Followed by, “We are heading into our busiest season.” And then of course there are the holidays, meaning there is a two-month self-imposed moratorium where no terminations may occur. Take it from me; there is never a good time to fire someone. Just do it sooner rather than later.
5. Will you regret your decision? I’ve been in business for a long time, and I’ve never had an executive tell me that in retrospect they wished they hadn’t fired someone. In most cases, they tell me they wish they had done it sooner.
While it’s certainly everyone’s intent to hire great people, circumstances do change. Address situations when they arise to minimize the disruption that occurs when a great hire isn’t as great as you thought they would be.
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