When is it time to make a staff change?

As managers and business owners, we often struggle with when it is time to let an employee go. If you are asking yourself if someone is right for their position, then you probably already know it is time to let them go. The challenge comes when we convince ourselves that things will get better, so we give it more time.The decision to delay terminating an employee comes from a multitude of places. Here are the common excuses I hear from business owners:

– “Sally really needs this job and has a lot of personal problems. I feel for her and don’t want to add to her misery.”

– “If I let Eric go, I won’t have someone to cover the Thursday shift and I really don’t want to have to do it myself.”

– “I don’t have time to look for someone new and train them!”

– “Evan tries really hard and is really dedicated. Maybe someday he will stop making so many mistakes.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? I admit it. I’ve used all of them to some degree at one point in time in my career. As an objective outsider, I tell my clients, these are not legitimate reasons to keep an employee. As a business owner myself, I know it can be a difficult decision to make. There are four questions that are helpful to address when contemplating the future of an employee at your organization. The first two questions address the skill level and attitude of the employee. The next two questions address your role in the employee’s success.

The Employee’s Fit

Does the employee have the skills to be successful in the position? This is a straightforward question yet often difficult to answer. You must have seen something in the employee during the hiring process to indicate he has the skills necessary to be effective in the position. If you come to the conclusion now that he doesn’t have the necessary skills, you have to admit you were wrong in your initial assessment. This can be difficult for some of us. It is important to take a step back and objectively evaluate the skill level of the employee. If you come to the conclusion that he does not have the necessary skills to be successful, you then need to determine if further training will get him to where you need him to be. If you have exhausted all training options, then you have your answer.

Does the employee have a positive attitude? An employee’s poor attitude can be expressed in several forms. It could be blatant with episodes of insubordination or more subtle with constant excuses for lateness or not getting a task completed correctly. It may even take the form of an employee doing the minimum amount necessary to get the job done. The most telltale sign is typically shown on the employee’s face- is it a smile or frown?

An important factor to consider when discussion an employee’s attitude concerns a change in attitude. If the employee has been with you for a while and suddenly has had an attitude change, you owe it to the employee to ask questions to find out the cause of the attitude change. If there is something going on at home, sometimes just bringing the new attitude to the employee’s attention can cause a change in the employee.

Your Role in Employee’s Success

Have you set clear expectations and communicated these expectations to the employee? I find that managers often respond to this question quickly with a resounding, “YES!” At further inspection, you may find that your expectations aren’t as clear to the employee as they are to you. Sitting down with your employee to discuss their job role, the results expected, and your standards ensure the employee knows your expectations. It is helpful to also have these expectations in writing and ask your employee to sign it.

Have you provided the employee with the necessary resources? Ask yourself what training, equipment, procedures, supplies are needed to perform this job effectively? Does the employee have all of those resources available to him? If he needs to get additional information to perform his job, does he know where to get it? Sometimes I ask my clients to picture themselves in their employee’s position and to brainstorm everything you need to do your job without road blocks or frustrations. It is amazing how that can change your perspective of the situation.

Do you have an employee that is keeping you up at night? Is this employee hindering the success of your business or organization? What steps do you need to take to put your organization back on track?


About Andrea

Andrea Hoffer brings a unique perspective to consulting and training. A small business owner with 35 employees herself, she knows first hand the everyday challenges of motivating employees, exceeding customer expectations, and meeting business and revenue goals.


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