Termination Dilemma’s

Forget the legal requirements of terminating an employee’s employment or the activities an employee undertakes that requires termination, let’s look at the time when someone is just not cut out for the role. The emotional stress on the manager during this process is intense. It has been said that terminating employees rank high on the list of most hated tasks for managers.

I am sure most managers take their responsibilities very seriously and are not frivolous with their power. To those managers who abuse their powers, shame on you. It is not a game. Terminating someone’s employment changes their lives and the lives of their family.

Today I had to change someone’s life. This person was wonderful but couldn’t perform the requirements of their role. They had repeated attempts at retraining and I even changed this person’s role to suit their skills. Eventually the decision needed to be made that enough was enough and that it was actually more detrimental to keep them.

So how do we get to that point? What are the signs? Here are my tips to help you through this most dreaded time:

  1. Ask yourself, have you satisfactorily trained them in their role?

This may sound like a stupid question, but you cannot terminate someone for something that is effectively your fault. If you haven’t provided your employees with every opportunity to learn their role, in a systematic and documented way, then I would think again about termination. Give them every opportunity to learn their role and excel at it. If they cannot or will not excel, then lets talk again.

  1. Have you committed to a structured improvement program?

If there are concerns about their performance and you are doubtful they have received the full training required or the opportunity to perform, then put them on a structured improvement program. Borderline performances may not only be a result of a lack of ability, it may also be due to personal, out of work issues, that need to be discussed and worked around.

  1. Have you asked how they learn?

This might seem like another stupid question, but everyone learns differently. If they have been trained using a learning style they cannot understand, it may affect their performance.  One person might be fine handed a manual, another person might need one on one discussions. Ask them, do they listen or do they need to read? Do they want to jump in and learn on the job or do you need to go through a complete ‘how to’ of their role?  How do you learn? Have you asked yourself this question?

  1. Within yourself, have you done everything possible?

I do not think you can terminate anyone’s employment without asking this question of yourself. Have you done everything humanely possible to assist them with their job? Keep in mind, a line must be drawn somewhere. You cannot continue to assist/train your employees for an indefinite period of time.

  1. Have you provided them with feedback and performance updates?

If you have done everything you can, completed awesome training using their preferred learning method and kept them up to date along the way, I would say their termination will not be a surprise. Although, in saying that, denial is a wonderful thing! At least if you provide them with regular feedback and conduct performance updates, you can refer to these to help make a decision. 

  1. What is the best thing for your business?

It’s horrible to say this, but if they cannot perform the role, they shouldn’t be there. Having employees in your company who cannot fulfil their obligations actually puts pressure on the rest of your team. Obviously the work still needs to be done, so if they are not doing it who is? You almost need to be unemotional when answering this question. Forget about the person and look purely at their abilities, the business requirements and the potential for that perception to meet reality.

  1. Be brave

This will hurt you. No doubt. If you have any compassion and kindness in your soul, this will leave a mark. Be brave when you are thinking about terminating someone’s employment. Don’t leave them thinking they are doing a fabulous job, when they are not. Don’t let your team believe borderline performances are acceptable. It is far easier to do what you need to do now and not let your employee linger.

For all the managers in the world, good luck. In your role as manager you will have to terminate someone’s employment from time to time. It doesn’t get any easier the more you do it and the actual making of the decision will get tougher every time.  Be compassionate, be kind. You don’t have to be ruthless or hurtful.

To the person whose employment I terminated today. I sincerely wish you all the best. This is not a door closing for you, it is another door opening. I hope you see that soon.


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