How to Know When It’s Really Time for Employees to Go

Time for Employees to Go picture of employee with a parachute getting ready to leave

When Is It Really Time for Employees to Go?  
This is a difficult and challenging question for many leaders who rightfully feel the weight of relationships, loyalty, friendships, and payroll.  When is it really time for employees to go?

Employee Attrition is Rarely Easy
Employee attrition is rarely an easy process or a desired outcome.  High employee retention is often seen as a key talent management indicator of a healthy culture, trusted leadership and a solid strategic growth plan.  But not all employees should be retained.

Handling Consistent Under Performers
Let’s start with what most leaders consider the easiest situation from a performance perspective. If you want to create a high performance culture, employees who are consistently under performing (even after you have given them help to try to turn their performance around) should be let go within 90-days. Why?  Because allowing under performers to stay is bad for people and the business.

Why Allowing Under Performers to Stay is Bad
Under performers drag down the rest of the team causing performance, morale, and engagement to suffer.  This happens in two ways.

  • First, high performers notice under performers who remain on the team and realize that they do not have to perform at as high of a level.  This typically causes great dissatisfaction for high performers who want to work with other high performers.
  • Secondly, under performers begin to overestimate their own contribution and become a challenge to properly manage.

Handling Barely Acceptable Employee Performance
But what if employees are performing at a barely acceptable level? It can be difficult to manage performance when someone’s work is average. Over time, mediocrity tends to negatively affect team performance. There are two questions you need to answer before it is really time for employees to go who are barley or averagely performing:

  1. Are they committed to improving?
  2. Are they negatively affecting their co-workers?

What About People Who Are Diligently Trying to Improve Performance?
If they are working hard to improve their performance, and they are not toxic to their team environment, then you should try to work with them in a way that aligns with your corporate values and talent management philosophy. The key is their attitude. If they are eager to perform at a higher level and will work hard to improve their skills, you likely have a winner. In our experience, skills can be taught – attitude cannot.

Handling Toxic Employees
Employee engagement training experts know that it is really time for employees to be let go when they are under performers and have poor attitudes. Not only are toxic employees cheating the organization’s potential by their poor performance results, but they are also undermining the engagement and performance of others.

The Bottom Line
Set clear and reasonable expectations for both performance and behavior.  Then have the necessary conversations and let the right people go in a kind and compassionate way after they have been unable to improve.  It will be better for both the employee and the organization.

To learn more about managing poor performance and retaining top talent, download The Only 16-Step Employee Retention Strategy You Need

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