November 15, 2009

First, Fire Frank Foreman

By Paul Bieber

You have made up your mind to replace your plant foreman. You have thought about it for a year now, some days Frank Foreman is good, and some days he acts like a lump on a log. You talked it over with your partner and yes, you are going to do it. Done deal. You’ll do it after the first of year and start with a clean slate.

‘Ding Ding Ding Ding’. There is the ‘you just made a mistake bell’ ringing, and it is ringing loudly!

When you decide to replace someone, do it ASAP. Do not wait, do not pass go, and do not wait for some artificial calendar date.

Here’s why…

You will transmit your feelings about Frank to him, and he will become an even worse employee. You will hope that maybe he will quit, saving you the confrontation of the firing, and maybe the unemployment insurance cost. Frank will begin to realize his days are numbered, and get even more stubborn about resigning, and will become more of a pain-in-the-tail.

Other employees will begin to feel this tension, and they will question why Frank is still in charge since he is behaving like a horse’s behind. Your leadership will then be questioned.

Frank, will unexpectedly throw out his back, real soon, after he realizes what your are doing. His worker’s comp payout will last a long time, and cost you much more than unemployment.

What follows is a true story. I had decided to release a customer service person at one of our plants. He was a gentleman about 50 years old. I was worried about age discrimination problems and I spent time figuring out the best way to fire him. To make a long story short, the day I was going to meet with him, he called in sick. Three days later he asked for a meeting with me. It seems he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and needed a couple of months off for treatment. I couldn’t fire him now. He remained on our books for five months because I waited. Sure this is a one in a million, but really, I terminated about twenty CSR’s in my time, so this is a one-in-twenty.

Now if you do the termination as soon as you make up your mind here is what happens…

You will feel better. You will not have this hanging over your head for a long period of time. Your employees will give you a ticker-tape parade. By the time you realize Frank has to leave, your employees have known this for a while. They really are wondering what took you so long to see the writing on the wall. Sure you will be shorthanded for the time you look for Frank’s replacement. If Frank was that bad, you won’t feel his leaving, because he didn’t do anything. Your employees will work harder knowing that they have to pitch in with Frank gone, and they will be glad to do it.

If you keep Frank on while you are looking for a replacement, the fact you are searching will get out. It always does. It always will. You will get caught in an embarrassing moment, guaranteed.

If you want to pay someone through a certain date, then do it in the form of severance. Every manager wants to be kind to their employees; if you plan on giving Frank extra money, do that; but your best kindness will be getting Frank out of the business so the other employees can get their jobs done!