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"This Isn't Working Out"


Every manager will probably have to face the underperforming employee. It could be a bad hire, someone who has reached a different point in their career and is no longer happy, or someone affected in a negative way by change. It doesn't matter what caused it, the manager has to handle this situation correctly.

Spoiler: most don't.

First, if you have been doing feedback, coaching, and relationship building, the situation should be clear to both of you. If the employee doesn't realize there is an issue, you have failed as a manager.

Second, this doesn't have to be adversarial. It will be difficult and it may even be emotional. The goal is always to create a win-win situation.

Third, think of solutions. This doesn't mean you are trying to cut things off, but look for the way that everyone can be successful.

Well before you are ready to terminate the employee, have the conversation that clearly says: "you are not performing to the standard we need. I know you can be successful, but it isn't in this role. Let's figure out how to put you in a position to succeed. It is what is best for you and for the company."

You should have exhausted all means to make them successful in their current role, so now it is about the next role. Make it clear that barring something major, they will need to do something different. Consider finding them something different inside the company or help them find out what they want to do outside the company. Set a time limit - after all, they can't be underperforming for ever on your team - and help them in any way you can. This includes time off to interview, offering to help prepare, giving a good reference (without lying), etc.

In the end, if the employee is underperforming, they probably aren't happy in the role. You want them to succeed and you want your team to succeed. The most likely way that will happen is if the employee leaves.

Notice I didn't talk about hiding it from them, worrying about lawsuits, focusing on covering you butt, etc. Those are things you do for you, this is about helping them.

The side benefit: when your team sees you treat someone with fairness, respect, and compassion, you will increase engagement. Do things in a way that they see as negative and you'll decrease engagement.

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