What is one question to ask before letting go of an employee?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”
- Theodore Roosevelt -

Jenny came over last night, she was upset. She told me “I cannot handle Richard anymore; he is sabotaging my business. He has this tendency of not showing up to work on days which are the most important days for my business. He knows my other employees are dependent on him and he just disappears!”.

She kept on saying “Richard is really a good lawyer. He really knows his stuff. He sometimes rush things and misses few details but he is the only one I have. It took me months to find the right lawyer. You know Liz, it is not easy to find a good lawyer for an international business like mine”.

Jenny looked at me and asked “How do you know when to let go of an employee? When is enough is enough?”.

Letting an employee go is never an easy matter, letting someone you worked with, encouraged, supported, defended and even mentored go is never easy. It is even harder when you are dependent on this person.

There are key actions we need to take when having employees:

  1. Make sure your employees know their goals and how they are being measured
  2. Explain the key values and vision of the company to your employees
  3. Make sure that as your company grow and change, your employees acquire the new skills needed to grow together with the company
  4. Make sure your employees have a clear communication channel to express their opinions, worries, and suggestions

Sometimes these actions are not enough.

Jenny listened to me and said “These are great points. However, Richard knows his goals, he understands the company values, he was able to adapt to our expansion overseas. But, he is just not reliable, it is all great when he comes in, however when he is “out”, and he is “out” a lot, all this does not matter. I had the talk with him about this behavior multiple times, but he seems not to get it. He promised it would never happen again…It always happen again. What should I do Liz?”.

I looked at Jenny. She was sad and looked as if she was not sure about herself and her decisions. I told her “These are the toughest situations, when it is not completely black and white, when you are not sure about the decision. These situations are also the most common ones”.

I thought for a few minutes as Jenny was waiting for an answer, and then I said, “Charlie once told me right answers comes from asking the right questions. He told me that in a situation like that I need to ask myself one question. This question would guide you to the right decision. I hope it would help you as well Jenny”.

Charlie’s question was “If you knew then, when you hired the person, what you know now about the person and the position. Would you hire Richard again?”.

It’s very surprising, the answer usually is very clear. The toughest part is to ask and take action.

As I am writing this blog post, Jenny texted me, “Liz, I just posted a new job offering for a lawyer”. Jenny decided to take action!

How do you know when to let your employee go?


About the Author: Liz

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