When a relationship with an employee begins to sour, it can be difficult to know whether to salvage or terminate it. On the one hand, you want to give every employee the best possible chance to succeed. On the other, your gut may tell you to part ways sooner rather than later. How do you know if you’re making the right decision?
Most underperformers don’t need to be fired, they need to be led.
One of my favorite quotes on the topic comes from retired Navy SEAL and co-founder of Echelon Front, Jocko Willink, who said: “Most underperformers don’t need to be fired, they need to be led.”
Before you decide to terminate your employee, you may need to look in the mirror and see if you have done everything in your power to make this individual successful. Were they onboarded successfully? Do they have the tools, support, and leadership they need? You invest so much in your employees, who are most certainly your best assets. So, if you can’t confidently answer yes to these questions, that’s a great place to focus your efforts.
If you are confident that your employee has received the leadership they need, I recommend asking yourself the following eight questions to help guide you in your analysis:
1. Can it be fixed?
Some problems can’t be fixed; for example, when an employee consistently displays unethical behavior, such as lying to customers and co-workers. This type of problem is nearly impossible to fix because it’s a character flaw. Some people have the innate ability to act this way, and it doesn’t bother them. If a problem is not fixable, why delay the inevitable?
2. What level of effort will it take?
If you’re going to try to fix the problem, you have to decide if it is a simple matter of a few coaching sessions or sending someone to a training class, as well as how much time and resources it will take and if it will distract other employees and impact productivity.
3. Can it be done in a reasonable timeframe?
If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you might want to give that person another chance. But if it’s going to take many months with an uncertain outcome, the juice might not be worth the squeeze.
4. Are they willing?
If an employee is genuinely willing to make changes or put out more effort, consider putting them on a performance improvement plan that clearly outlines their goals and the support they can expect from you along the way. But if the employee is fighting the change, doesn’t buy into your system, or seems resentful of your guidance, they are likely going to hold you and everybody else in your dealership back.
5. Are they able?
Just because someone is willing to change doesn’t mean they can change. Does the employee have the capacity and drive to learn and grow, or do they struggle to retain information? If they’re not capable, it’s not going to work out in this role. However, if they have a great attitude and other valuable skills, perhaps they can be given another chance in a new role that aligns with their passion and skill set.
6. Can you measure it?
If a problem needs fixing, you need to put specific measurements in place to track progress. Many roles inside the dealership are tied to sales figures and other metrics, so this task should be relatively easy. Put some thought into how you will measure improvements to fairly determine whether or not an employee is getting to the level where you need them to perform.
7. What are the potential risks?
Analyze the risks of keeping an employee versus letting them go. For example, let’s say you’ve got someone who displays borderline harassment behavior. What’s the probability that employee will cross the line one day? If that happens, how much will that cost you in a lawsuit, lost business, decreased morale, and bad press? Every situation will have its risk/reward scenario that you need to walk through — just be aware. Risks associated with keeping a bad apple may be higher than you think.
8. What are the potential rewards?
Sometimes this is an easy answer. When it comes to the new salesperson who needs a little extra training, the upside will be limitless. But what about the star sales consultant who lies to customers and undercuts co-workers for personal gain? Or what about the office joker who likes to tell offensive jokes? That is where employers tend to justify behaviors. If you’ve ever said something like, “It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just Bob being Bob,” be aware. If you keep a problem employee because of a high reward potential, the associated risk is also higher.
As you walk through these questions to analyze the relationship you have with your employees, keep in mind there are no definitive right or wrong answers. The purpose of these questions is to help you examine issues that you might not have thought about on your own. In most cases, individuals underperform because they weren’t set up for success. At the end of the day, only you can decide whether trying to salvage the relationship will be worth the effort.
Dave Druzynski is vice president of people and culture at DealerSocket, where he oversees the development of company culture and employee satisfaction. Dave has earned the prestigious distinction as a Senior Professional in Human Resources and has been certified by the Society of Human Resource Management.