Sometimes Saying “Goodbye” is not Easy

The decision to proceed with releasing a team member should be well thought-out. Many managers avoid terminating “ok” or even “bad” employees because they are conflict-adverse, have self-doubt, or are unable to separate their concern for the person from the performance. The price of keeping these employees is high. “Ok” and “bad” employees can decrease morale within the team and organization, decrease long-term productivity, and can have negative effects on customer satisfaction and revenues. It also compromises your leadership ability.

There are four signs that it is time to say “goodbye”:

  1. There is a lack of progress or follow-through on projects.
  2. There is a disregard for organizational processes or procedures.
  3. There is a lack of trust.
  4. They have a poor attitude, especially if their attitude is spreading throughout the team.

The first step in the termination process is to create an outline of what steps the employee can take towards improvement. This should include very specific expectations, goals, and a 30-day deadline to meet expectations. Provide examples whenever possible. This outline should be shared with upper management and human resources.

The second step is to have a very honest conversation with the team member. Some organizations prefer to have a representative of upper management or human resources attend this meeting. Present the outline and answer any questions the employee may have. During this meeting allow the employee to share their thoughts on their performance. Emphasize that they have 30 days to show improvement. Also provide a copy of the outline to include any clarifications spelled out in detail to the employee and to any upper management representatives that may be present during this meeting.

During the 30-day improvement time, check in with the team member at least weekly. Also begin the hiring process for their replacement. This reduces the need to have other team members pick up the slack for an extended period of time once their colleague is gone. If after 30 days there is no measurable improvement, it is time to have one last honest conversation terminating the employee.

In the end, creating a plan of improvement will help both manager and employee remove any doubt in regards to employee performance and general fit within the company’s culture and its goals. It also allows the team member to prove themselves and receive coaching or mentoring they may require. While termination is never pleasant for either party involved, sometimes it is the best decision.