June 8, 2008

You Know You Have to Fire Him, But……………

By Paul Bieber

You have cursed him for three years; told yourself you would do it on three different times; you almost did it once; why can’t you fire him? He does just enough to get by, most of the time; he shows up on time, on pay day; he said he was sorry for spilling his coffee on Mrs. Customer’s white rug, after she stopped payment on the check; why can’t you fire him? You gave him a raise every year for three years because you didn’t want him complaining.

Yes, it is hard to do. You loose sleep over it, and you chew antacid pills by the dozen. It is easier to live with mediocrity than fire someone. He might sue you for something. He will play on your heartstrings, telling you about his sick daughter. He may bad-mouth you to the rest of the employees. He might work for a competitor and tell them who your best account is.

On the other hand, your other employees will thank you for getting rid of a rotten apple and you will sleep better. You may save money, because, with our current economy, you are not going to replace him.

Here’s the plan. Put him on probation. Write a thoughtful and accurate critique of his work. Comment on his attitude, his quality and quantity of work, his safety habits, and his reliability. When you say something negative, (and you will), give a specific instance which backs up your comment. Most importantly, set a target date and work goal you expect for improvement. It is hard to figure out for attitude, buy you will know it when you see it. It is subjective, yes, but you are within all bounds to ask for better and more polite communication with all levels of the company and customers.

Meet with him for an half-hour, laying out your concerns, and your goals for his improvement. (If he does improve, you have a win, and all is fine!!)Set a time to meet again, usually 30-60 days. Explain that his job is in jeopardy if he does not improve. Give him every reason to improve in your meeting, specifically, he will keep his job. Keep accurate notes during this time period about his failures and his successes. Since tigers don’t change their spots, his failures will continue.

At your next meeting, explain where he has not met your goals and now you are going to suspend him for 1 week. Tell him to go home and think about whether he wants to work for you. Keep his medical and other benefits intact for this week, but no pay. This is not a lay-off. Be clear, this is a dire consequence of his inability to meet your goals. He may ask to be paid a week of vacation…split answer on this. No pain, being no pay, may improve him. My feel–give him the vacation money, you will owe it anyway, and you are showing the strongest support by doing this.

After the suspension, give no more then 30 days to your next meeting. If he doesn’t improve, it is time to terminate. Make it quick and simple. Tell him he hasn’t met your goals and his job is done. Do not get into an argument, have another person present with you; don’t present details; if he is going to sue you, don’t give him the ammunition. Save this for your lawyer.

I promise you, all the fear and problems will be offset when one or two other employees come to you and say thank you for letting the rotten apple go. You will sleep better. Your company will be a better company.

This is a simple note on a complicated situation. It is a start. Think about him and his impact on your business. Do you want to talk with an impartial person? Drop me a note a paulbaseball@msn.com.