We’ve all done it. Or if we haven’t done it, we’ve seen it happen. Managers, owners, and company leaders who allow certain employees to hang around way longer than they should. Even when it is completely obvious to everyone that they are no longer a good fit.
In many cases, it’s simply a matter of poor leadership, and not owning up to the toughest, most unpleasant parts of the job. But sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it’s personal.
Especially for those of us in smaller businesses, we can become so connected to our employees that we develop a sense of obligation. We know them as people. We like them as people. So we keep these folks on staff— despite their poor performance. We fail to take action. We look the other way. We sigh and hope for the best.
While this kind of empathy may be admirable to a point, it's all too often carried to an extreme.
As a company leader, your first obligation has to be keeping the organization healthy, and a healthy organization requires everyone on the team to contribute at a high level. If, as an employer, you aren’t taking care of your business, it will only be a matter of time before you are unable to take care of the people who work there. And that's not good for anyone.
You have a responsibility to every individual on the team, a responsibility that aligns with keeping the organization healthy.
- You have a responsibility to communicate the company culture, values and direction
- You have a responsibility to be very clear as to the expectations you have for every individual to contribute.
- You have a responsibility to provide the training, coaching, and resources to allow them to contribute successfully.
- You have a responsibility to provide regular and meaningful feedback on their performance.
And when you have an individual who isn't willing or able to contribute to the highest company standard...
- You have a final responsibility to the organization (and the individual) to either find that person another position within the organization or terminate his/her employment.
It should always be difficult to fire someone. If it isn’t, you waited too long.
The other employees should always be a little surprised when someone is let go. If they aren’t, you waited too long.
You should never be in position to badmouth an employee who has left. If you are, you waited too long.
Not firing an employee might seem like the easy way out at first. But when you wait too long, not only do you allow poor employee performance to slow you down, you damage your own credibility with those whom you are charged to lead.
Make no mistake, your employees are watching and waiting for you to perform your job the way it’s supposed to be performed. Don’t let them down. And perhaps more importantly, don’t let yourself down.