The Little Golden Nuggets of Recruiting

As Talent Acquisition Specialists/Recruiters, we have many tools at our disposal to help us find the right candidate(s) for our client(s). Setting aside technology/social media, the greatest “tool” at our disposal is our ability to build relationships. That’s right, news flash, if you are in recruiting you are in the relationship building business. Great recruiters actively grow and cultivate their networks and actively work to maintain these relationships within those networks. Candidates want to work with recruiters that they know and trust. The only way you get there is by building relationships.

Golden NuggetNow at this stage, I know I am not telling you anything that you don’t know. In terms of tools and sourcing tactics, there are far more qualified folks out there that you can follow and read about that will provide you with a TON of great information. Folks like Glen Cathey, Will Staney, Lars SchmidtMatthew Jeffery, Stacy Zapar and Jeremy Roberts. These folks are recruiting rock stars. What I can tell you though, is what has worked for me. I have probably conducted hundreds, maybe thousands of recruiting campaigns in my career. By far, the single most effective tool at my disposal has always been employee referrals. Depending on what/where you read, referrals seem to be often either overhyped or undersold. In my opinion, there is no such thing as overhyping the effectiveness of referrals. Most people know that (your) talented employees know other talented employees. It has been my experience that talented people don’t just refer someone because they want to receive some sort of monetary referral bonus. No, they refer because talented people want to work with other talented people. If your employees are engaged in what they do and they believe in your talent brand, they will refer others.

The beauty of referrals is that it is like having 50, 100 or even 1000+ recruiters working for you. My first stop on any campaign is to leverage my internal networks. I make it a point to constantly be speaking with employees about current and upcoming hiring needs. That way, we can manage the (passive) referrals proactively and then the (active) referrals during an immediate campaign. You need to make it a point to get the word out to your employees about EXACTLY what it is you are looking for. You should be doing this for all levels of positions; however, typically the more difficult the skillset is to find, the more effective a focused referral campaign probably will be.

Case in point, we recently ran a campaign out on the west coast of Canada for a very unique skill set. We knew that typical sourcing and recruiting tactics would not give us enough reach and access to the types of candidates we needed to be speaking with. Our first step was to get out in front of staff. We spent days spreading the word across our offices about the type of person (knowledge, skills, ability, performance profile) that we were looking for. We also honed in on our employees whose backgrounds were most similar to the type of individual we were looking for. (Thank you HRIS!) By knowing our employees’ backgrounds as well as being able to identify our best performers, we were able to leverage this referral/recruiting campaign with a great deal of success. The end result was that we were able to hire the majority of the individuals through referrals – no other recruiting costs involved. This couldn’t have been done just using LinkedIn ads/searches, internet searching, etc.

So, to come full circle, as I mentioned earlier, recruiting is about building relationships. However, these relationships are not always externally facing. You must look inside your organization at your current employees. Build these relationships and continue to nurture and foster them. Better internal relationships mean better referrals for you the recruiter! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Les Haines/

Customer Service is King?

Customer service is a lost art. There I said it. I don’t know if it is just me, but seems like less and less businesses are focused on providing good customer service these days. In fact, more and more, the customer is being made to feel like an intrusion or inconvenience into the businesses’ day as opposed to being the reason for it! Case point, this past weekend my wife and I, along with some friends and relatives were at a local restaurant that we frequent regularly. We had a modest size group of 10 that arrived for supper at 5:30pm (we had reservations for this time). We waited quite a while for our meals; however, as we were not in a hurry and it was supper hour, no one minded or complained, we were simply looking forward to our meals.

Customer Service TabletA little over an hour after we were there, our meals arrived. The best way to describe the majority of the meals was “warm.” My wife’s meal, (which was a steak dinner), was literally cold. Not warm, but cold – you could tell it had been sitting out for some time. When the server came by to check on our meals, my wife told her that the meal was cold and not really edible. The server’s first response was, “sorry about that but I am not the one who cooks the meals.” I was shocked – really!? That is your initial response!? Incredible! Then, her solution was to either throw the steak back on the grill (my wife wanted a medium steak, so in order to ‘heat it up’ it would turn into well done) or to provide her with a fish dinner because, “fish is quick and it won’t take long to get you that.” My wife indicated to the server that she did not wish to have fish and that is why she ordered the steak. The waitress then replied with “ok, then” and promptly left to serve other tables.

My wife attempted to take a few bites of the cold dinner but found the entire thing inedible. Our server passed by our table several more times, noticed that my wife wasn’t eating her meal, and continued to serve her other tables. At the end of the meal, the server offered another half -hearted apology and my wife firmly (but politely) indicated that she would not be paying for this meal. The server was taken aback and said to her, “well I offered to heat it up and I offered you another meal.” She then indicated that she would have to get her manager to come over to verify with my wife that she did, in fact, give her those options. As you can imagine, my wife was very frustrated, felt like the staff didn’t care and to top it all off, she was hungry!

Over the course of the next 15+ minutes, we could see our server conversing behind the scenes with someone who we presumed was a manager. There was a lot of discussion, head movement, looking over at our table and motioning with hands. Our server then ended up in conversation with several other servers, all of whom, it appeared, seemed to be looking at our table during this discussion. Keep in mind, at this point, we are all done and just looking to pay and leave.

Overall, I would describe our server as feeling as though we had somehow insulted or inconvenienced her. Ultimately, our group left the restaurant feeling as though it wasn’t a place we could recommend anymore, simply because of the (lack of) customer service experience. We were made to feel as though we did something wrong by wanting to have our meals right.

So, here is the thing. As business owners, employees and/or HR Pros reading this blog, we need to understand that we are all in the customer service business in some capacity or at some point in time. Having said that, there are some lessons learned here in providing good customer service and how we can make situations (like above) right:

  1. The first thing you need to do is apologize to your customer, but when you do, you need to mean it. Accept responsibility (even if you yourself aren’t at fault). Don’t blame another member of your team, it only makes you look petty and displays to the customer that you don’t care.
  2. Make things right with the customer. Clearly in the case above the meal was not as ordered and quality (temperature) not appropriate. Take some pride in your product/service and make things right. Don’t offer the customer things they don’t want and make an extra effort to make things right. In our case, all the server had to do was go out back and order another steak to be cooked and make it a priority order. Worse case, it would have taken 15 minutes to prepare. Sure it would have sucked a bit for my wife to wait while everyone else ate, but at least she still would have had the meal she ordered at the quality she expected.
  3. Don’t make your customer(s) feel like they are the problem and don’t make them wait while you try and decide on a solution. Taking an excessive amount of time to debate a solution on a basic issue only serves to enflame the situation. In our case, even if all the other errors had been made, if the server and/or her manager and come to our table with the bill and apologized in a timely manner and indicated “no charge” for her meal, it would have gone a long way in us wanting to return. Heck, even a complimentary dessert would have been a nice touch!
  4. Offer your customer a reason to come back. Of course, following points 1-3 above helps, but even you show some good faith, it will go a long way. If the restaurant, upon us leaving, offered some gift certificates or something to make things right, again, we would have left with a much better feeling and at the very least, would have had incentive to go back there again because we felt we were treated with respect and that they truly valued our business.
  5. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t take your customers for granted. Our table of 10 had a total bill of several hundred dollars. The steak dinner in question, that basically overshadowed everything, was worth about $20. That’s right, this restaurant was willing to turn off customers over a $20 meal! (total ‘cost’ to them was probably ¼ of that price). It was such a nominal amount for the restaurant, but they felt it was important to follow their policies, procedures or whatever else they tell their servers as opposed to doing the right thing and providing a positive customer experience.
  6. That all being said, organizations need to empower their people to make positive and proactive customer service decisions. A server shouldn’t have to get permission to comp. a $20 meal. Accept the error and then make it right – no debate, no permission needed. We weren’t asking for everyone’s meal for free – we just wanted that one meal made right. Our initial thought wasn’t even to get the meal free, we just wanted it made right.

So you can now see the importance of each customer service experience. There is no such thing as a “minor” encounter with a customer.   Each encounter goes into your customer service goodwill bank, whether or not you are a restaurant, retail store, or HR department. Keep these points in mind the next time you are trying to solve a difficult customer service situation – you may be surprised at just how easy a “difficult” situation is to resolve! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback. And if you think we were being unreasonable in this situation, I would love to hear your feedback as well.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Free Agent Frenzy – HR Version

For the sports fans/football fans out there, you all know that today at 4pm EST the NFL’s free agent period kicks off. This is essentially the NFL’s version of a talent free for all. Hundreds of NFL players will become unrestricted free agents today, which means that they are all free to sign with whatever team they want to for however much money they can get. As free agents, the very best players (best talent) command top dollar for longer contractual periods. The funny thing is, every year, in the chase to make more money and to win championships, both players and owners alike, make critical mistakes during this time period. Players leave simply for money and owners overspend/over value the free agents and make hasty decisions as they try and buy a championship.

The same comparator can be drawn when it comes to top talent within organizations looking to move on to perceived greener pastures. That is, unless you are under some sort of fixed term contract, as an employee, you are always in free agent mode. That is, you are free to change employers as you see fit and are able, provided you give proper notice to your current employer. In my years in the recruiting and HR business, I have seen a lot of people chase the dollars only to have it come back to haunt them – much like the NFL players do. Similarly, organizations NFL-FAtry and buy talent (overpay) as a way to compensate for their inability to attract, develop and retain the right core group of employees.

The biggest mistake that NFL players make is that they leave a team (company) and system (culture) that they are familiar and comfortable with which has also allowed them to have great success on the field. When these players become free agents, they jump to teams that offer them the highest dollars possible without considering how they will be able to perform in these new systems. Just like in business, the NFL has teams with such poor cultures, usually due to poor ownership, (the Oakland Raiders or Miami Dolphins) that it is hard for players to be successful, especially if they have come from an organization with strong culture focused on performance and winning (think the New England Patriots). In fact, rarely have players that have left teams with these type of “winning “ cultures gone on to realize the same or similar success with other teams. If you don’t believe, Google any big named free agent that has left New England or Baltimore (despite the Ray Rice issues) in the last 10 years and see if they have gone on to similar or greater success. Trust me, you will come up empty. The reasons are simple – leadership, culture and organizational stability at the top trumps dollars when it comes to setting people up for success. Meaning, just because you pay someone a ton of money, doesn’t mean they can and will perform for you.

So, if you are looking to make the leap from your current company to another for more money (as your main driver), you need to consider if you can have the same level of success and maintain the credibility of your personal brand if you do so. Now, I am not begrudging NFL players or you, my readers, for trying to make more money. Heck, we all have bills to pay! I simply mean you have to look at the big picture. NFL players will turn down $5 million a year on a 5 year deal with their current team to take $6 million a year for 4 years with another team. Yes, I know that is a total difference of $3 million in overall value however, the player is realizing approx. a 20% increase a year with one less year of employment. What happens in the NFL, because a lot of deals don’t contain guaranteed money, meaning, the player can be cut without penalty, is that after the first year or two, if the player’s performance isn’t at peak value or producing, they are out of a job. So how much additional money did they truly realize?

The same logic applies to us as employees. You may be able to increase your salary by 20% (who wouldn’t want to) but if you aren’t going to be set up for success, is it worth the damage to your professional brand? Do you really want to go through the misery of being part of a horrible organizational culture with poor leadership for the next 4-5 years of your career so you can realize a 20% bump in pay?

So, when considering a move purely based on money, you have to ask yourself, “Would I rather be playing for the New England Patriots and have a chance at winning the championship every year?” or; “Do I want to go purely for the money and play for the Jacksonville Jaguars where I have no chance at winning or success for the next 5 years, but I will take home more money?” Typically the average NFL free agent doesn’t consider this…perhaps you, as top talent, should? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

PS – Darrelle Revis: Please heed my advice!

Image courtesy of The Revelation

You can’t always win on pure talent

One of the things in my personal life that I am very passionate about is the coaching of my daughter’s basketball team. I truly enjoy working with her and the rest of the team as they enhance their fundamental basketball skills and come together as a team. One of the things that we, as coaches, did very well at the start of the season was set the expectations as it pertained to the type of team culture we wanted to have. We were very clear with the girls (and their parents) that we expected them to show up for practices and games on time, be prepared to give 100% at practice/games, listen to what the coaches were trying to teach them and to treat each other and their opponents with respect.  We indicated to them back in October that if they bought into these expectations we would establish a supportive culture of performance that would lead to success (not quite in those “HR” words but you get my drift!)

People concept imageAs the season commenced, we lost more games than we won; however, the girls bought into what we were teaching, they gave 100%, they treated each other with respect and supported their teammates for the betterment of the team.  At the last game of the regular season, we ended up playing the top team in our division (who hadn’t lost a game all year) and we defeated them. Two weeks after that, we played that same team in the league final and beat them again. So what are the lessons learned here as it pertains to HR and business?

Let me be clear, on talent alone, the other team was/is superior to our girls. Generally speaking, their girls are more athletic and are better overall ball handlers and shooters. So on talent alone, they are superior. So what is/was the difference? It was the sum of the parts playing as a team. Our girls came together as a team and played a better team game. They bought into the culture, the expectations and were all very coachable. They bought into the team concept and how equal ball distribution translated into more points for everyone. They understood that it wasn’t about individual success but team success and at the end of the day, they enjoyed winning more than being the person on a losing team with more points.

So what does this all have to do with HR and business? Well, based on my experience, I think the same can be said about our organizations. Often in the war for talent (I still despise that expression) companies (i.e. Talent Acquisition folks) get so caught up in hiring the best talent that they can assemble (skill and experience-wise) that they lose sight of the fact that they should be building teams not collecting talent. With organizations, much like a basketball team, if you have too much “top talent”, there aren’t enough balls to go around to make everyone happy. If you simply have a collection of talented individuals working for you, but there are no expectations set for them, no culture established and no reason to come together as a team, then you will have talented people working in the best interests of themselves and not your company.

Much like the previously mentioned team we defeated, a collection of talented individuals is not going to be a competitive advantage if you can’t harness the power of the group to focus on the team outcomes. One of my favourite bloggers, Tim Sackett, wrote a post last year on his blog – “It’s Not a Talent Contest” that I think really hammers things home. Tim writes, “It’s not a ‘talent’ contest. It’s a ‘winning’ contest!” He further brings home his point by indicating that:

“…it doesn’t matter how talented the other team is, it all comes down to winning the game. Great, you have the best talent, but if you’re losing the game your high level of talent means nothing! …….in reality, the best talent might not help your organization ‘win’….business isn’t a talent game. It’s a winning and losing game…you don’t always need the most talented individuals to win. What you need is people who are willing to give that little bit of extra effort, over those who won’t. This discretionary effort gets you the win, over talented individuals who aren’t willing to give such effort. You need individuals that put the goal, the vision, first. They believe in what you are doing as an organization, and do what it takes to make those goals reality. You need individuals who want to see those around them succeed and are willing to sacrifice themselves, from time to time, to see their peers and coworkers succeed. This sacrifice has nothing to do with talent…’s about hiring the talent that will make our organizations successful.”

My apologies to Tim if he feels I edited this incorrectly (I can only hope that he is reading my blog!); however, I feel he is 100% bang on with this assessment. Your team has to have people that put the organization’s/teams goals first. We need to focus on hiring and retaining the right mix of talent that will make our organizations successful. As HR Pros, let’s agree that we should be advising and acting based on that principle. Let’s stop focusing on collecting talent as if we were trying to assemble a complete set of baseball cards. A collection of (top) talent is nothing if collectively they can’t make your organization better/successful. Much like the complete collection of baseball cards, once you assemble them, they typically stay in a box on a shelf collecting dust – they are of no use to you. We need to bring together that optimal mix of individuals that buys into your team concept – they are the ones that will help you to win…whether in business, or basketball. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

Don’t make the group pay for individual sins

One of the biggest short comings of ineffective managers is taking performance or conduct issues that they have with one or two individuals and making them a group or team issue. You know what I am talking about – a manager has a team of 10, of which 1 or 2 seem to have a problem coming to work on time. The next thing you know, there are memos and emails being issued about the need to arrive to work on time and it then becomes an agenda item in team meetings. Everyone is regularly lectured and threatened about the need for punctuality. The end result is that for the eight people that this doesn’t apply to, they become frustrated, resentful and angry about hearing this message (when everyone knows who it applies to) and the for the two people it does apply to – well, it goes right over their head.

SinThis is a common issue in many workplaces and with many managers. If individuals aren’t meeting their performance targets or goals, you have to have this coaching conversation with them 1:1. Making individual problems into group issues causes resentment, creates division and results in alienation of staff members. For the manager, it will cause them to lose the respect of their team, erodes trust and breaks down communication. Ultimately, people don’t feel appreciated and then they start to look at all the other areas in the workplace that irritate them and find ways to voice/express their displeasure. People who previously weren’t unhappy at work now become dissatisfied. This basically results in the proverbial Pandora’s Box being opened.

Case in point, a personal friend of mine recently relayed a story to me that supports this (information). She has been with her company for over 3 years now and for the most part is pretty happy, motivated and generally engaged in her job (which is a sales job). However, over the past two quarters, her local office has been under tremendous organizational pressure to meet sales targets for which they have been falling short. Primarily this has been due to turnover and the new(er) staff is just not experienced enough to make up the sales shortfall (and in some cases, are already disengaged themselves). Regardless, the problem exists and the Sales Manager (my friend’s boss) is feeling the heat. So, what does he do? As part of his regular staff meetings, he openly throws down to the group about how they are not meeting their targets, how they need to do more and for each week they are not meeting targets, everyone needs to come in on weekends to try and sell more so that the targets can be met. Pretty bad huh?

Of course my friend, along with over half the team who are meeting/exceeding their targets, is pretty P.O.’d about this message and treatment. She felt she was treated with disrespect and is now being “punished” along with everyone else, regardless of what her performance has been like. The second mistake the manager made was to have the top performer in the group get up and basically lecture the rest of the team on how she meets her targets and how if they did what she did, they would meet them too. This employee went on, without the manager stopping her, to lecture about how as a team there was no reason they couldn’t meet their targets and they all need to step up, blah blah blah. The manager concluded the meeting by basically telling the team, “You all need to copy/model what ‘Janie’ does so that you can all deliver higher sales volume.

Just when you think this story couldn’t get any worse it does and I will now show you the danger of making the group pay for individual sins. Unbeknownst to the manager, this “top” performer was actually manipulating the sales recording system to make herself look better. Yes, she is a great salesperson, but she found a way to record/bundle sales activity to make her hours sold look better than everyone else’s. Her peer group all knew it because she wasn’t very discreet about it and, up until this point, no one wanted to “rat out” a member of the team. The problem now is that because everyone was scolded and embarrassed and held up to false comparison, people came out swinging. The resulting fall out hasn’t been pretty. “Janie’s” methods have now been brought to the manager’s attention who now needs to figure out:

  1. How he is going to deal with this issue before it gets escalated above his position
  2. How he can repair the damage done to the team’s morale and his own credibility after he basically told the team they needed to model the behaviour of a cheater!

So you can now see the danger, as a manager, in making the entire team pay for the individual’s sins. Performance and conduct issues should be dealt with in private, 1:1, between manager and employee. You go to the group to solicit their help in solving a problem that is affecting everyone. Ask the group for solutions, input or support in something…don’t scold or lecture the group. If you do, the end result will never be what you are looking for. If in doubt, read this post again about what can happen if you take the wrong approach to the group! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of April/

My Advice to new HR Pros

I recently had an exchange of emails with one of the readers of The Armchair HR Manager who also happens to be a LinkedIn connection of mine. She wrote to me about a recent post on my blog that had triggered some serious career introspection on her part. She is a young, up and coming, HR professional who is still in her first HR job since graduating from school. She was experiencing a lot of different emotions about her career, specifically about what she was doing (in her job/career) and who she was doing it for. I was fortunate enough to be able to provide her with a bit of advice about expectations and evaluating current and future positions, which I think set her in the right frame of mind as she began to consider her next career move.

The entire exchange, I thought, was fantastic as:

  1. I always enjoy conversing with my readership, LinkedIn connections and any HR Professionals.
  2. It provided me inspiration for this post as I really got to thinking about what it was like when I was first starting out in my HR career and you get to that point when you begin to wonder about making a move.
  3. It inspired me to think of what advice I could give new HR pros and what I would have wanted to know when I first started out.

AdviceSo I got to thinking, in the spirit of helping out the new(er), up and coming HR Pros, what advice could I give them that I would have wanted 17 years ago? First of all, I think it is reasonable to expect that after a year or so in your first HR role, it is normal to start to feel the need to move on or want a change – this could either be from the company you work for, although that may not always be the case, or the actual role you are in.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need/should move on, but the feeling is normal and it is cause for some professional and personal evaluation. Remember, it never hurts to dip a toe in the water to see what is out there. As well, just because you interview for another position, doesn’t mean you have to or are going to take it.

A lot of recent HR grads usually get their first role in some sort of HR Coordinator type role, or they cut their teeth in recruiting. For those in coordinator roles, they often quickly outgrow the administrative nature of these roles. If you are an HR Coordinator in a larger HR department, this type of role probably allowed you to get oriented on how HR is done in the ‘real’ world vs. what you learned in school/case studies. In your first HR role, you learned about corporate culture, bad managers and transactional HR work. It is now normal to want to spread your wings and try something new as your confidence has increased a lot over a year and you are probably feeling underutilized in your current position – these are all normal feelings at this stage in your career.

For those in recruiting roles, it is pretty normal to want to make a shift into an HR Generalist type of role early on in your career. HR grads that start out in recruiting learn pretty quickly if they want to make a career out of being in the talent acquisition world or if they want to broaden into more of a generalist role dealing with talent management, payroll/benefits, employee relations, etc. There is nothing wrong with staying in one area or the other, it is just pretty normal to want to move from recruiting into HR within the first year or so of it being in your first job after school.

It is also normal after a year or two out of school, and in your first HR role, to want to move on from your current organization. Often, after graduating, you are so happy just to have a job, things like the company you work for and/or the person you work for are irrelevant to you. You need a job and want experience, so where and who you work for fall down the list of importance.

After 18 months or so on the job, you can get a good feel for those elements and start to incorporate them into your next move. You are now able to better define what you want in your next move in terms of role, company, culture, etc. Keep in mind, it is hard to replace getting some solid HR experience on your resume, so you have to strike the balance in this area (of role vs. company). Remember, most organizations out there aren’t Google’s or Microsoft’s in terms of what they offer!

Working in ‘difficult’ organizations and/or dealing with difficult situations early on in your career is a great resume builder. Having had exposure to things like terminations, layoffs and re-structuring, policy development and performance management in the early stages of your career are great foundational experiences. You can port them from job to job and industry to industry. In the early, formative years of your HR career, it is all about building up your HR toolkit and gaining exposure to as many areas of HR as you can. Once the toolkit has built up, you can be more selective about who hires you to utilize this toolkit!

The last piece of advice I would give new(er) HR Pros, and that I wish I could have given myself 17 years ago, was to make sure you are always working on your professional brand and building your network(s). Your professional brand requires a lot of work and it is of the utmost value to you. How you network, develop yourself and interact with your HR colleagues and operations clients is all part of your professional brand. Now with the substantial role and influence that social media has in our lives, your online presence makes up a huge part of your professional brand.

For the up and coming HR pros, you have an incredible opportunity to build your brand through tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Keep in mind, everything you do (personal and professional) formulates part of your brand. There is no division any more between the two – personal IS professional and vice versa. Always be mindful of how you represent yourself – your brand is your most valuable commodity. It is my hope that some of this resonates with the new(er) HR Pros out there and that it serves as some high level guidance for you. I welcome and other questions you may have and as always I welcome any of your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Sometimes, you just have to say “Goodbye”

One of the darker, but necessary parts, of our jobs as HR Pros is when we have to provide council to our operations partners on the potential termination of an employee. I am not talking about layoffs here (which are the most unpleasant of all) or gross misconduct (i.e. lying, cheating, stealing, and violence) but more the terminations we are involved with that are in fact conduct related, but are an accumulation of things. I am referring to the situations where you have employees that are habitually late, have pattern absenteeism, unauthorized absences from work, can’t meet work deadlines or are a general performance issue.

ByeIt has been my experience, more often than not, that when HR becomes involved with, or aware of these scenarios, the situation is often typically past its breaking point. The interesting thing is that contrary to what many (HR) people believe, that managers are quick to want to fire, my experience is that managers are often unwilling to make that final decision to terminate in cases as I described above. Often the manager has spent a lot of time and effort in counselling the employee, coaching and ultimately warning the employee that their behaviour/results need to improve. They have put in yeoman’s work to try and improve the situation but at the end of the day, it is the employee who is unwilling or unable to change. More often than not, the manager has gone the extra mile.

Often the manager is reluctant to go to the final step of termination because the employee is “nice,” or gets along well with everyone else, or “tries hard when they actually are at work, or perhaps the manager even knows of some personal circumstances that make them unwilling to terminate. Let’s be clear, I am not referring to something that is a short term issue here, these are cases where there has been sustained issues for 6 months or more with no improvement shown. It is in those cases that you aren’t doing yourself, your team, the organization or the underperforming employee any favours by keeping them around.   Sometimes, you just have to say “goodbye.”

Here is the thing; there is also a hidden cost to keeping someone like this (chronic tardiness, absenteeism, underperforming, etc.) around. You do irreparable damage to your team, as they are the ones picking up the slack AND you also damage your reputation/credibility as a manager. You can’t be taken seriously if you are willing to accept poor performance for 6 months, a year or more!

So my advice in these cases is simple. It starts with the hand on the heart test. That is, (assuming your documentation is in order) if you can put your hand on your heart, look in the mirror and state, “I have absolutely done everything possible to help this employee improve and set them up for success,” than you need to say goodbye to them. No one is saying it is easy and no one is ever going to say it is no big deal, but you just have to do it. Do it for your team and do it for the employee in question. More often than not, they just need the nudge out the door (it will probably come as a relief to them) to start a new chapter in their lives. Do it with respect and allow the person to maintain their dignity when leaving and then everyone can start fresh, because sometime, you just have to say “Goodbye.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/


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