4 Ways to Know If It’s Time to Teach or Terminate

Leaders in the business world are much like Goldilocks seeking the perfect bed. In their decision as to whether to keep an employee or terminate they struggle with to approach that is “just right.” More often they are too hard and dismiss abruptly, with little or no warning to the employee or they give them 15 chances to improve and are incapable of pulling the trigger.

If you have an employee whose performance concerns you then read the thoughts below. They may help you decide whether to retain the employee and continue to invest in them or let them go.

1) Does your employee have a teachable spirit? Are they coachable? When you offer them feedback about their performance do they take responsibility and listen intently? When I evaluate talent on my team I ask two questions. Are they willing? And are they able? An employee who listens and cares about their performance and wants to continue to learn and improve may be worth the continued investments of your time and attention.

2) Do you see incremental improvement in the employee’s performance? Business owners are notoriously impatient. They want results now! They expect employees to learn quickly, make no mistakes, and do it with a smile. The right approach is to expect the employee to make steady, incremental improvement. When they listen to your coaching you will know they were impacted when you see that the issues addressed in the coaching session were resolved. The employee will continue to make mistakes (don’t we all?) but now they are making different ones.

3) Does the employee make a positive impact on the team? Are they a team player? Is the team impacted positively by their presence? If their performance is marginal, it their attitude is indifferent and the team doesn’t like them, move them out quickly. Bad attitudes politics, negativity, laziness are cancerous and distract all team members from their highest goals of performance and customer service. Look hard at all employees that don’t make the team better. Root out the bad apples quickly. Be patient and persistent with the team players who need additional coaching and training.

4) Does the employee share your personal and organizational core values? If you wake up in the middle of the night wondering if a certain employee should stay or go my hunch is you are experiencing a values/performance conflict. In other words, the employee contributes high performance in customer service or sales or in getting projects completed but while achieving great things they violate one or more values that are core to you. This conflict early in your leadership development may feel impossible to resolve. But as you lead well you learn quickly how important fully integrated values are within the team. If you want a great culture that inspires employees to be their best be true to your values and move people out quickly who do not tightly align with them. Great organizations that sustain excellence over time have clear core values, modeled well by the leader. Employees are hired who share these values and those employees that do not share them are exited quickly and respectfully from the team. I am convinced that values alignment is more important than job performance.

I hope these four ideas will help you gain the clarity you need to make the decision whether to keep or terminate an employee. If handled right, with respect and dignity, it may turn out to be the best thing for both the company and the employee.

Michael Duke is the Founder and CEO of Michael Duke and Associates, Inc. and NEWSCHOOL Recruiting. He works with organizations who want their managers to lead with purpose and build high performing teams. His services include leadership training and consulting, recruiting and retention consulting, culture building and improvement as well as team building. He is the author of two books. Lead Like a Coach; Leadership Lessons from Legendary Coaches and Coach to the Goal; Ten Truths to Transform Your Team into Winners. Find and follow Michael here: www.michaelduke.com and www.newschoolrecruiting.com.