Getting the Right People in the Right Seat, Part 2: Evaluating, Counseling, and Firing Employees

What to do when an employee won’t play ball

In our previous article, we talked about getting the right people into the right seat. This methodology is especially useful when it’s used to evaluate current employees and ensure that they are the correct person for the job. But the scrutiny doesn’t end there, of course.

Let’s say, for example, that a company’s core value is respect, and there is a weekly meeting every morning at 9:00. “Julie” continues to be late to that 9:00 meeting. You’ve cautioned her that “early is on time and on time is late” but she’s consistently tardy. Given the core value of respect, she should be able to extrapolate that this includes respecting other people’s time – and perhaps she’s been explicitly told the connection. Thus, the organization now has an issue with a person not following its core values.

You could plot this on your people analyzer chart and see how it acts within the context of your other values to determine how it affects Julie and her aptitude for the seat. If this is the only value where she is lagging and her performance might be improved, it may not be such a big deal. If it continues, however, it could be a larger problem.

From there, it becomes a person-to-person issue. Someone within the organization – usually, her direct manager – has to explain to Julie why she needs to get on track and how to do so. One of the best ways to approach this is with a three-strike system. A person might not hit it out of the ballpark after one or even two strikes, but failing to make contact with the ball on a third try is serious. In general, three strikes means you’re out.

The best thing to do is explain to Julie how she can improve this behavior, and what is at stake if she does not. This involves counseling.

Counseling an employee

Counseling is the process of trying to improve the attitude or aptitude of an employee who has been negatively evaluated in one or more respects. This can be due to an issue they have following the core values or one that involves failing to meet the accountabilities of the seat they are in. Make sure to bring in specific examples to any coaching sessions. What they did, when they did it, and how it affected the organization and their fellow employees.

If Julie is counseled, her manager might advise her to change certain behaviors to ensure she makes it to her meetings on time. Maybe she needs to go get that coffee five minutes earlier. Maybe she needs to buy a watch. Or maybe … it’s simply that, at her core, she doesn’t respect the meetings or the people who depend on her to make them on time.

Thirty days later, if there’s no improvement, it’s time for another meeting. Same discussion, strike two. Another thirty days. No improvement, another meeting. This time, it’s a different and far more serious discussion, as it’s strike three.

Julie must be held accountable for her repeated tardiness and disrespect, and it is time to consider that she is the wrong person in the wrong seat.

Firing is never easy – but it can be handled in an easier way

In some cases, firing an employee is the solution. Unless this person is your rock-star employee – the very best – and everything would indeed fall apart without them, this might be the only remaining option. That said, we often find that many rock-star employees aren’t quite as essential as you may assume they are; and some actually create as many or more significant problems than the ones they tend to solve.

As before, it is essential to be specific and clear during the firing process. Share examples of what the individual did wrong, when they did it, and how it affected others. Then remind them of all the chances they had to make a change, and that they either ignored their warnings or failed to adapt. Hopefully, this will show this person that they were hurting the organization more than they were helping it. And if they were to continue ignoring the company’s core values, they run the risk of eroding a healthy culture created by these values. In essence, make it clear that they are being fired for cause.

In Julie’s case, she certainly wouldn’t be fired for being late to a single meeting. But consistent tardiness and disrespect will start to affect others. Maybe other employees begin to think that the meetings are not worth attending; that timelines are flexible; or that they can blow off memos or miss work without calling in. And if Julie was otherwise a rock-star employee but consistently displayed this disrespect, perhaps other employees will come to view inconsistently-applied rules as a double-standard.

Of course, this is just a simple example. Whether an employee consistently fails on a core value, several of them, or the five to seven accountabilities associated with their position, the same standards and processes apply. Evaluate performance. Set standards, such as a three-strike rule, and provide counseling that provides opportunities for improvement. If the employee fails to adapt, it’s usually far better for your organization if it doesn’t adapt to their behavior.

To learn more about getting your business strategy on point, as well as how we can help you save significantly come tax time, call Provident CPA & Business Advisors at 1-855-693-7829 or get in touch through our contact form.