Managing employees can be a very frustrating experience. Sometimes it is easy to think that business would be so much simpler if we could do it all ourselves but we can’t. As contractors, we are always busy and the hassle of finding someone else always plays on our minds.
When an employee does something wrong, a menu of questions and hopes plays in our head. Maybe it won’t happen again. If I hire someone else, they will probably be worse than this person. Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. So how do you know when to terminate someone or try to keep that person and work things out?
Can’t do it:First ask yourself, if this person had a million dollars, could he or she have done the task well enough? Think about this carefully. Don’t just assume it can be done. Make sure he or she clearly understands what is expected and to what standard he or she needs to perform. I wish I had a nickel for every paperwork situation I have encountered where the company said the employee wouldn’t do paperwork only to find out he or she couldn’t do the paperwork. Frequently, the employee does not understand how to fill out the paperwork or possibly has poor reading and writing skills and is too embarrassed to admit it.
If an employee can’t do a task up to your standards, ask yourself is it a capacity or aptitude issue. There are lots of skills I do really well and many others I will never be great at. I simply do not have the aptitude or ability for it. I would love to play center in the NBA but I am just not tall enough, young enough, fast enough — and the list goes on. If the employee does not have the capacity or ability to meet your standards, he or she must be reassigned or terminated. Just make sure that is the real issue prior to making that decision. Many employees have not been given a fair chance when it comes to training and might do better with guidance. Obviously, if the employee has the capacity and ability, it becomes a coaching and training issue. Remember that different employees learn at different speeds and just because someone does not grasp a skill quickly does not mean they cannot do it.
Won’t do it:What if an employee can do a task to your specifications but has chosen not to? Now you must determine what is undermining the employee’s motivation. Is it a short-term or a long-term attitude problem? Do they have the character to care about and consistently perform to your standards? If it is a short-term issue such as a family emergency or poor health, you work with the person. If it is a long-term problem, you probably need to look towards termination.
Theft and horrendous misconduct warrants immediate dismissal. Less offensive crimes such as a poor attitude and inconsistent performance may be tolerated in the short term. However, you should be looking for a replacement. Just because an employee has you over a barrel due to schedule or workload does not mean you have to put up with poor performance forever.
Think about someone you terminated. It was probably a bad attitude or “can’t do” type of situation. Many of our dismissals revolve around work ethic and lack of motivation issues. Unfortunately, many of these traits are hired. When interviewing employees, ask questions that might help discover the person’s views on performance. What job did they like most and why? What did they like about their last job? What did they dislike? Look at a candidate’s work history and see how often he or she has changed jobs. Make sure each job change has an appropriate answer.
Too often we see money as the primary motivator of employee performance. Recent research shows that pay has little impact regarding how workers perform cognitive tasks. Will paying someone more make them smarter or more prideful? It is doubtful. High performers tend to be people who have pride in their work. They also have a sense of purpose, mastery and are self driven. They do a good job because they want to, not because you told them to do so.
Unfortunately not all employees can be stars. As employers, we frequently set people up to fail because they are next in line or seen as the current employee who is the least likely to fail, full well knowing they will struggle to do the job. Use this article’s logic as laid out to determine your next step with an underperforming employee. First, make sure they know what is expected. Next, determine if he or she can or can’t do the job. If they can’t do the job, coach them with a goal to raise them to the highest performance they are capable of. If they do not have the ability or aptitude to do the job, try not to set them up for failure. If possible, reassign them in an appropriate position. If they won’t do the job, determine if it is a short-term or long-term problem. Coach the short-term problems and terminate employees with long-term issues. Stop, think and analyze so that you might set employees up for success.