This appeared in print as part of the story “Best Laid Plans” In 2007, the City of Columbia’s visioning document suggested that council...
I have problem employees and don’t know if I should try to save them (they do good work) or just fire them all and start over. I’m at wit’s end — help please!
Firing people is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you are personally invested in the employee. I know this from personal experience.
My company hired an employee years ago that seemed bright and fit the mold of our culture very well. We expected big things from this person. Once on board, the employee seemed to catch on. Things were good.
About six months into the job, their manager started seeing little things not being done the way they were taught. But the manager thought, “Hey, it works for them.” Later, when we tried to get back to basics, this person got downright nasty about it. Their manager decided to ignore the situation and things got worse. The employee truly got too big for their britches — they talked behind the manager’s back and eventually skipped major steps in our processes, which led to really bad practices.
Once upper management learned what was really going on, we watched and listened intently. We saw that the employee in question had a need to be validated for their innovative ideas, even if they weren’t used, and wanted to see a clear career path for themselves. (They also needed counseling for things in their personal life, which we could not address.)
So what did we do? We moved the person into a different role. It worked for a bit, maybe eight months. Then the employee decided they were part of the management team, tried exercising authority they didn’t have, and worked against all company policies. The employee had to go.
We really tried to save this person. All the managers had invested hours upon hours in this individual. In the long run, we learned a lesson: Everyone is replaceable. I hope you’ll think about this when you are thinking about saving or terminating. My word to the wise, as always: Hire slow and fire fast, especially if an employee has natural traits that aren’t going to change.
Anne Williams is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.