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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/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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