Hand-Holding Managers When They Fire Someone

Hiding Behind a BriefcaseI’ve been  one of those managers you probably dread: I freeze when it comes to firing people who just aren’t working out.

Part of the problem is I have a tendency to think people who work at desks are more inclined to try their hardest. That happens even though I’ve met enough mechanics, landscapers, boat builders and carpenters to know that a tendency to believe white collars are more motivated than tradesmen is, to put it kindly, misguided.

So, in the past, when someone wasn’t making the grade I’d bump up their scores during performance reviews to make sure they had enough carrots. When they really blew it, I’d give them a verbal warning while sternly telling them I was on their side and wanted to keep the issue “off the HR track.”

It never worked.

So that’s why HR Morning’s Tim Gould got my attention with his post, “The 5 worst excuses for hanging on to poor performers.” His list:

  • ‘Maybe they’ll improve’
  • ‘Better to have a warm body in the job than nobody at all’
  • ‘Other workers will think we’re cruel – they’ll hate me’
  • ‘Maybe they’d do better in another position’
  • ‘This could get ugly – they might cry, or even get violent’

I’m not sure if these should be called “excuses” or rationalizations. Maybe they’re a little bit of both. Either way, what they all have in common is a focus on the personal difficulty of handling a tough situation, instead of making the hard decisions necessary to ensuring a company remains competitive and pushes for excellence at all levels.

These statements also show a desire to avoid engaging HR, which is a shame because HR really can be the manager’s biggest ally in these situations. Of course all companies have their politics, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that HR could spin the challenge into a negative for the manager. I think that’s rare, though. Managers of smaller departments don’t face disciplining or firing employees very often, and they need to be educated about how HR can ease the process, or at least provide guidance in navigating it.

Source: HR Morning