When you inherit someone who doesn’t perform well, you can usually launch a series of events that will either improve the worker’s contribution or lead to termination. But matters can grow tricky when the individual has a cozy relationship with your boss or has become a beloved “institution” at your company.
Here’s a three-step process to handle poor performers who are difficult to fire:
1. Identify failings. Write down all the reasons why you think the individual is a terrible worker. Review your list a few days later, at a time when you’re not upset with the employee.
2. Take a history lesson. If, after reviewing your list, you still believe that the employee has to go, find out why others “love” him. Talk with past supervisors, read his personnel file and discuss the matter with your boss. You may uncover a way to tap the worker’s strengths by making some reassignments.
3. Hold a high-level dialogue. If you’re still convinced that the individual is a liability, document his inability to meet job standards. If a boss blocks your decision to terminate, say, “I understand Sam has been here for many years, and his contribution was significant in the past. The situation now is that you’ve asked me to improve my team’s production, and Sam’s performance presents an enormous roadblock.” Then give three specific examples of how Sam’s work derails your efforts. Close by saying, “I would like to proceed with probation and eventual termination, if it comes to that. Are you comfortable with me taking this action?”
By broaching the topic this way, you open lines of communication with the boss. Whatever the result, you’ll benefit from having an honest, straightforward discussion.
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