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Need To Fire? When It Is Time To Write A “Dear John” Letter

  • By Andrea Schlapia
  • |
  • April 15, 2013

136237578 web, istock, thinkstock, getty imagesDealing with the employee who whines
blames others and drags down team morale is nothing short of painful. Managers and leaders report the least favorite aspect of their job is managing people. There are many ways to add fulfillment, rather than dread, to managing a team.

Unfortunately, there will be the time when a “Dear John” letter is not only necessary but vital to the success of your business.

Excuses For Not Firing

Imposing proper discipline, let alone termination, is challenging for many leaders and sometimes avoided altogether. The list of excuses grows and before you know it, you have put your business at jeopardy. Team morale is low, productivity is low and the culture within your firm resembles a room full of people awaiting a dreaded root canal.

Leaders and managers today tend to justify keeping an employee who poisons the office. Why? Firing doesn’t top the list of favorite leadership obligations, but at times a necessary evil. Overcome the little voice filling your head with excuses.

“I Can’t Manage The Office Without Him.” Everyone has good qualities and I like to find those traits in each and every person myself. However, when required skills and characteristics are not being applied to expected responsibilities, it is time to remove a poor performing employee from your bottom line.  The poor performer may have indispensable talent or connections you don’t want to lose. Nobody is indispensable. Low performers cost dollars to the bottom line of your business. Unique skills and talent can be replaced by talented people minus the drama of a complicated employee.

Punishment vs. DisciplineManagers and leaders will decide to take a guilt trip. This is a wasted vacation, to say the least, and unproductive. Identify the difference between punishment and discipline. If you have implemented and delivered appropriate disciplinary action, without improved results, you need to follow through with the stated outcome when an employee does not meet expectations.

Emotional AttachmentMany times we form “family-like” relationships with our colleagues. While this fosters a positive office culture, there will be times when cutting family ties is vital to the success of your business. Rather than coddle an employee, refer them to an appropriate resource for help.

Poor Manager SyndromeWhen an employee fails to meet expected performance standards, many managers feel they haven’t managed effectively. Don’t assign personal responsibility to yourself.  Provided you have followed solid and effective leadership guidelines and a proper management performance system, a poor performing employee is not a reflection of your leadership ability.

Knowing When It Is Time To Fire

Terminating an employee usually comes down to an identifiable issue in relation to attitude, activity and/or results. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos won’t hire stellar candidates if they don’t fit the Zappos culture–and he fires those who don’t inspire it.

A common mistake for business owners is waiting too long to fire an employee. Identify and come to terms of the unfairness to both your company and the employee by retaining the employee with limited potential for personal growth and success. The wrong person can easily deteriorate the morale of an entire office.

Business leaders share the following reasons for implementing termination:

  • No Show/No Call
  • Broken Integrity
  • Actionable Feedback Is Ignored
  • Return On Investment Is Not Being Met
  • Lack Of Engagement/Productivity

I love Colin Powell’s take on mediocrity. This quote should be included in every human resources manual. “The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.”

“Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”

Colin Powell
Retired General United States Army


Photo credit ©iStock/Getty Images/Thinkstock

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Author Bio

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life. Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.