Today’s Question:

How Can I Gain Clarity & Confidence When I Think It’s Time to Fire Someone?


Welcome to another edition of Coffee Talk. I’m so glad you came back today because today, we are talking about one of the most popular questions I get asked as a management coach. And that is how do I know when it’s time to really fire someone? And to be able to do it with clarity and confidence so I can sleep at night. So, I’m going to provide some solutions that I’ve used in my LinkedIn learning courses and that I’ve worked with managers to implement that have done so successfully and with peace of mind. So let’s get started.

Here is three critical discoveries I’ve gained from working with thousands of managers across North America for the past 20 years. And they are that well-meaning entrepreneurs and owners are hanging on to certain employees way too long. Next, companies without effective manager don’t have a coordinated philosophy or process and so HR and managers really don’t know how or when to fire and to do it a comfortable way where they feel good about it, which I know sounds really odd. And that leads to fog which can really corrupt how someone can work through a process to legitimately let someone go.

So, I know you’re going to ask you. What’s fog? And here is what it is. It is fear, obligation and guilt. Makes it very difficult to work with someone. And in fact, a lot of people, a lot of managers feel overly responsible for someone and we consider that misplaced guilt.

Okay. I’m going to ask this question and no, we won’t talk about it specifically but I want you to consider, do you have a firing philosophy? Do you have something that you can hold on to when it’s time to do that? I believe firing someone is an essential management skill and yes, I did say skill.

So, here’s a peek into my firing philosophy.

Employees fire themselves. They are adults, they have choices. And sometimes, you’ll find that people are good interviewers and that the real person actually shows up later. You don’t want to accommodate that bad behavior. If they proven to be inauthentic, they disqualify themselves.

And, there are just people who are not socially healthy and have absolutely no intention of changing. And so you don’t want to hold on to them. And one of the reasons why I’m sharing these things is, my area of expertise is human behavior. So I’m going to share some things that are human behavior insights so you can be confident and making a quicker decision about what you need to do. So you want to coach up or coach out.

And it’s either time to improve or time to go and you got to be that cut and dry, along with the tips that I’m going to share with you. So, I’m going to give you, I know this sounds shocking, a very simple checklist. And how you can be confident and at peace that you’re doing the right thing in the right way right now. And, I do have an overwriting firing philosophy and it is acting in everyone’s highest good. It is not to someone’s highest good to keep someone in a situation that they’re underperforming, that they’re causing disruption in the team. It is not their highest good to do that nor is it yours or everyone else involved.

So, here is the checklist. You can take notes and/or download this video and email me for the slide notes. All right. Checklist number one, are you clear on the issues meaning is it something about you or something about them, are you clear what exactly it is that they’re not doing? Or are doing, for a matter of fact. Are they clear on the issues? Have you had ample discussions regarding the issue. You’ve given every reasonable chance for them to change? Have you determined, it’s clear the employee is not going to change? Or respond to repeated requests to change. This is absolutely the critical piece. Have you documented all steps, related to the process, the conversations and any attempts that you’ve made to help?

Now, related to ample discussions, answer these questions or answer this one question. Are they aware and have they demonstrated clear sustained attempts to respond to your request to change? Here is the key behavior tip. Always believe the behavior over the words. Behavior doesn’t lie. So the answer to those questions should give you clarity and confidence about whatever next actions that you need to take. Here is the key. If they don’t care, it is time to go. You can’t make someone care. It’s a waste of time, energy and money.

Bottom line: All right. So if they are unwilling to be helped, that means coached to improvement, then it is time to coach out. Don’t draw out the time, don’t excuse the time, don’t rationalize the time, which a lot of managers do because they’re not clear and they’re in the fog, you know where I’m going with this. It’s time to go. Now, there comes a point in time, and this is a very interesting element related to behavior, where there is a point of power that needs to be shifted, determined, affirmed or reinforced.

Once you have a discussion with someone and you request that they change, and they don’t respond, and you may even keep hope that they will want to change, let me tell you, hope is not a strategy. Either they’re willing or unwilling. Either they’re able or not able. And, they are able to respond appropriately which we call response-able, taking responsibility. And this conversation sheds a light on a very painful reality. Either you’re running the show or they are.

And some of you might be thinking, “Well, this sounds like parenting 101.” In a way, yeah, it does. And that’s an important human behavior insight. Somebody is leading somebody, either they are leading you or you are leading them. And, consider this, in healthy relationships, there is a continuous mutual exchange of lead and follow.

When it comes to this situation, there has to be a definitive statement or action which sets a boundary of who’s in charge and what’s expected.Here is a critical point. Your conversations draw that line and you’re asking them to move forward over the line with your help, if desired. If they don’t and you don’t do anything, what is the message that you’re communicating? What are they thinking? That, “Hey, it’s okay to do what I want. Your power doesn’t affect me. And I have more power than you. You won’t do anything. So I can do what I want.” Sounds like a child, right? Mm-hmm (affirmative). And here is the critical point. That in fact, that’s the whole reason why this is happening in the first place.

They think that you have no power to affect them. And I have more power than you so I’m not going to do anything. And that’s very childish. This reflects their level of maturity. Levels of maturity are very difficult to coach. Whether it’s social or emotional maturity, it takes a tremendous amount of time and attention to deal with immature employees.

So, with all of this in mind, here are your recommended action items. You need to exercise leadership, that’s pretty much the bottom line. You’ve got to set boundaries, ask them to honor those boundaries and if they demonstrate that they’re unwilling or unable to do so, you have got to let them go. Don’t excuse it. I’m giving you the human behavior insights so that you don’t have to worry about it. So, go through this checklist and get clear. Schedule a time to actually do the action. If after a week or two of viewing this video and you have not taken action, admit you need help. So you may have to schedule a call or get help from us to sort out the situation. And actually, from a broader perspective, this may be a symptom of possible holds in your management practices and the good news is, we can help you with that too.

You see in front of you the executive advantage blueprint and this is a framework that we use to help leaders and managers set up profitable and effective management practices format within 90 days so that they can stay focused and maintain their focus and freedom to grow their business or do the parts of the business that they most enjoy. So here is the key, in order to maintain your freedom and keep focusing on other things, you’ve got to be on top of how your folks are performing and if they’re not performing at expected or needed, you’ve got to remedy that as quickly as possible.

And if you’re not, then you have to ask yourself, why am I not acting? And get help to address that specific thing. So, feel free to connect with me by email to ask any additional questions or feel free to schedule a 30 minute call with us. We call them coffee talks. And we also have on demand advisory service. In any respect, that’s your checklist, work it through, take action and remember, this is an issue of leadership confidence. Get a firing philosophy together and be very clear on what you will and won’t tolerate. Remember, we train people how to treat us. The question is, what messages are you giving?