Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: your mid-year reviews are coming up and you’re dreading having to talk to Jim, the one guy on your team that everyone loves but who hasn’t been pulling his weight recently.
It’s not like Jim’s flagrantly under-performing — he’s not late on his reports and his ideas are generally solid. But he’s just not delivering to your expectations, and you’ve already given him multiple chances.
Now imagine you have a giant red button on your desk. If you pushed it, Jim would walk into your office tomorrow and announce he’d decided to take a job at another company. Would you push it?
If the answer is yes, you’ve already kept Jim around for too long, says Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn. In a recent post on LinkedIn, Weiner writes that failing to remove a member of your team who’s no longer meeting expectations “is one of the most common — and costly — mistakes a manager can make.”
Firing people is always hard, no matter how much you’d like someone gone. It’s especially tough when you’ve known them for a while or if they’re well-liked by the rest of your team. But if you’re serious about getting results, you have to move under-performers out.
Weiner shares a few lessons he’s learned as a manager that can help make the process less challenging:
1. Be ruthlessly objective when evaluating your team’s performance. “Deep down,” Weiner says, “we all know how to identify performance issues as soon as we see them. The challenge is that given the consequences, many of us may not want to admit the issues exist.” It’s tempting to make excuses or look the other way when an employee fails to measure up. But at the end of the day, being dishonest with yourself about their abilities creates more work for the rest of your team and more headaches for you.
2. As soon as you notice a problem, determine how long you’ll give them to fix it before making the move yourself. Some performance issues are solvable and can be cleared up by highlighting the issue and setting firmer expectations. Other issues are more fundamental and won’t be solved without serious, extensive work on both of your parts. Determine how much effort you’re willing to spend on this person and then be transparent about your timing and expectations. “Let them know the specific measures you’ll be putting into place to assist them,” says Weiner. And then stick to the plan.
3. If the problem persists, let them go — with compassion. While it may seem impossible to fire someone with compassion, Weiner argues that keeping an employee who’s unfit for the task is actually less fair to them than letting them go. Employees who aren’t pulling their weight “know consciously or unconsciously that they aren’t getting the job done,” Weiner writes. “Subsequently, it’s draining their self-confidence, and it’s only going to get worse over time.” So long as you’re direct, transparent, and respectful, letting an under-performer go will ultimately be the best thing for both them and your team.
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