We all make countless decisions every day. Some decisions can be made quickly and with ease, however, others are difficult to make – particularly when it comes to firing employees.
Often, the mere difficulty of the decision can sometimes prolong the inevitable.
We often procrastinate because making decisions about employees can be very uncomfortable.
This is because our basic human nature does not like making decisions that impact the lives of other peoples.
Making Difficult Decisions
Making difficult decisions is one of the many challenges of managing a small business.
When I speak with managers about making a difficult decision, I always ask, would you prefer to take the band-aid off slowly or quickly.
The analogy is that the pain is there either way.
However, you can make the choice of enduring a sudden sharp pain or a pain that may happen more slowly but lasts much longer?
Fast decisions can produce lots of pain and sometimes temporary bleeding.
However, slow decisions can mean slow and steady pain, a little more subtle but a long and painful process.
All managers want to make sure they hire wisely but often the urgency of the need speeds up what should be a slower hiring process.
I heard it once said that you should hire slowly and terminate quickly.
A new employee should be screened at all levels to ensure the right fit for the organization.
There should be ample interview questions to get to know the person, testing for skills, referrals, and background checks to make sure there are no ghosts in the closet.
Use a hiring matrix to objectively rate the candidates to ensure you are picking the best of the best.
Take a little more time during the hiring process so you won’t have to go through an even more painful process of managing a difficult employee or even worse having to terminate them.
The hiring process should be slow but when it is determined that an employee is not going to work out, the decision to terminate should be made quickly and always be based on objective, unbiased data.
However, once the decision to terminate is made there should be no delays in the process.
In Jim Collins classic book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, he says:
“For every minute you allow a person to continue holding a seat when you know that person will not make it in the end, you’re stealing a portion of his life, time that he could spend finding a better place where he could flourish”.
Delaying a justified termination simply keeps that person from new opportunities.
Not allowing employees to be in an indefinite limbo – is simply the right thing to do.
If they need to go, let them go. Hanging onto them isn’t fair to them or the organization.
Termination can be a straightforward, quick process as long as there are no discriminating factors that influenced the decision, i.e. sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
This is why using a progressive discipline process ensures you have done your part to document why the termination is justified.
Most of us are going to lose a little sleep when we make the difficult decisions of letting an employee go.
But with a structured process, documentation, and the will to do the right thing, we can all make difficult decisions that support the organization’s goals and is in the best interest of the affected person.