Monday, March 4, 2013

Don't fear the reaper

Donald Trump insinuated himself into the American psyche and lexicon with his signature bellow: "You're fired." His show, The Apprentice, had a good run before, as with many things Trump, it descended into caricature, evoking petitions for The Donald himself to be axed.

While Trump's exterminator persona may have raised the eyebrows of kinder and gentler executives, not all disagree with his methods. One business owner I know advises:  "the best time to fire someone is the first time you think of it."

Unrealistic, pig-headed, cold-hearted and self- destructive?  Perhaps, (and word does get around about bad bosses these days) but terminating problematic employees is not a matter for the meek or mild mannered.

The above owner's snarky remark belies pragmatic thinking: if an employee is giving you reason to question their continuation, you'd better gear up for an exit sooner rather than later. A prepared mind, and all that.


Trump notwithstanding, I don't know any business owners who relish the task of relieving anyone of their livelihood.  However, I have personally witnessed instances of owners extending an employee's tenure to the point that their business was gravely affected.  Not just by the brilliant jerks, whose contributions often mask their destructiveness, but by those who are chronically under-performing, disrespectful, deceitful and, in some cases, criminal. Bad apples, in other words.

What to do?  Here's how to cowboy up, pilgrim:
  • Document, document, document:    You may think it is tedious and unnecessary, but you would be wrong about the latter and immature about the former.  Did I mention write it down? Like, yesterday?
  • Get good advice:  If you don't have an HR advisor or employment lawyer, don't be penny wise and pound foolish.  Talk to a pro. Stat.
    • Process is your friend:  You must discuss issues with the employee, and detail a plan of remedial action.  Have a plan and procedure and follow-it. Don't freelance or improvise.
    • Rehab your culture:  I have worked with a number of organizations who flourished after problem employees were exited.  This occurs only when and if owners allow an honest dialogue to occur after the dismissal.  These conversations, if conducted respectfully but openly, can rebuild trust that may have been lost through inaction or complacency.

      No business owner likes admitting to a hiring failure -- it's contrary to entrepreneurial DNA -- and many take employee issues personally.  Get over it.  If you have an employee who needs to exit your company, you must act decisively and deliberately.  Chronic bad behavior that goes unchecked is a cancer within any organization.

      Don't fear the reaper.

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