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Weed out under-performers to build competitive advantage

Despite the pain, dismissing an employee can be one of the most important tasks of leadership. It can either be an opportunity to strengthen or build a culture of respect, accountability and trust or it can foster a culture of fear and secrecy.

Other employees will watch your actions, so you need to be mindful of not only ‘what you do’ but ‘how you do’ it as well. You are shaping your organisation's culture whether you take action or ignore the problem.

The real questions are, what do you want your organisation's level of performance to be? Can you build a competitive advantage with employees who pull in the opposite direction and continue to bear the cost?

Compelling reasons

If an employee uses drugs or alcohol while on the job, engages in illegal activities, blatantly dishonest, disrespectful, steals from the company, grossly insubordinate, consistently falls below expectations, doesn’t respond to training and coaching and divulges sensitive information to competitors - then you have no choice but to make the employee go.

In such situations, you must act decisively. Once you decide to lay off an employee, procrastination will only make a bad situation worse.

You are paid by the company to pay the good employees in return for the value created by each of them.

You have no right to jeopardise your company's success or your employees’ success, by retaining an under-performing employee or an employee who is a barrier to success.

You are accountable for business results and people – so it’s a delicate issue to deal with – a double-edged sword to play with. In any business action there can be a margin of error.

Damage

However, making a mistake in this activity can carry serious irreparable damage in terms of organisation reputation and various liabilities. So leaders need to take precautionary measures. Locally, the most common mistakes leaders often make when dealing with a potential dismissal include -

* Waiting until a crisis occurs before taking action. If you can recognise and address the problem early, before frustration and resentment sets in, the chances of success are exponentially greater. Leaders should have the foresight to anticipate and take proactive steps to avoid business distraction and employee disappointment.

* Making decisions based on emotions rather than facts. Leaders shouldn’t fire people based on personality clashes or annoying behaviour. It’s wrong from all angles. It's got to be based on business impact.

When the decision is fact-based, you remove many of the emotional stresses that arise when sitting down to consider your options. An employee having to leave the organisation due to no fault of his or hers is a crime and such an employee can be like a wounded animal not knowing how to react and the consequences can be severe.

On the other hand, a leader has no right to pay employees on sympathetic grounds. Doing it the ‘right way’ at the ‘right time’ for the ‘right reasons’ is the way go. Having to fire employees due to wrong business strategy or poor decision-making by the leaders should be zero in the ideal world.

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