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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Should I Fire an Employee to Improve Teamwork?

I've asked that same question myself several times in the past and hopefully not again in the future.

Very recently a client asked me a question that seems to lead there. He said, what do I do with an employee who is fairly good at what he does technically but is a poor team player? Apparently, this guy missed several promotion opportunities and have been overtaken by more junior managers and is now bitter and distrustful of most people in the team. His bitterness and distrust reflects on how he respond (or not respond) to needed changes. While he has years of experience and performance behind him, he is weighing his team mates down with his politics right now. My client doubts that any amount of teambuilding workshops can change this person. Oh yes, about my answer, I said fire him. The client said, I wish it's that simple.

But it's really that simple. If you have a team member who for whatever reason is weighing the team down, you need to let that team member go. The longer you keep him, the more demage will be made to the team. The sooner you let that team member go, the better for your team and the better that person.

Wait! Before you take that advice, heed this other advice. Fire that employee as a final resort. First, firing employees in the Philippines for no clear and justifiable reason (not being a team player apparently is not a serious offence as far as the labor code is concerned). If you are a manager or a leader and can identify one team member or two who fit the description, here are a few steps that I can recommend.

1. Build your team by setting and leveling expectations. Talk about your expectations and ask about theirs. Agree on a set of rules of engagement in the team so that everyone is clear about how to work with each other and how to deal with issues. Agree on a set of sanctions for violating the agreements. Make sure that all these are contributed by the team. Have your inputs last.

2. Have the conviction to follow through and I mean really follow through on these norms. If you let others slide for ignoring it, your norm will end up in the trash heap. Put everything in writing, remind everyone about it, warn people when they are digressing. Encourage people to call your attention if and when you slide. Recognize your own slip-ups and apologize to them. Let them know how serious you are about this.

3. When a team member is not playing by the norm, go into a coaching session with that person to genuinely and sincerely know what is wrong and work with that person towards getting him back into the fold. Commitment to follow through is important here.

4. When you go into a coaching session be specific about the behavior that's hurting the team. Be clear about the impact work on an action plan with that person. If the person works willingly with you towards resolving the problem, you may forget about my first advice. If the person is unwilling, you may not need to because there's a good chance, the person may resign. When you do all this, make sure that you have everything documented and acknowledged in case you have to resort to #5.

5. Fire the person. Politely but firmly tell the person about the failure to meet expectations. When I had this experience, I talked about how my team may not the best team for him and that the right team for him maybe out there. It's not easy but I make it a point that the friendship remains after the formal relationship is broken. When push comes to shove however you'll need the documents you made earlier as proof that you tried to make things work but the person won't cooperate.

I said it's simple, I didn't say it's easy. Shaping a high performance team is not an easy task but you have every reason to pursue it. Along the way, you may have to do the most uneasy task of letting go of a team member for the sake of the entire team. Hopefully by doing what I suggested here, you may not have to but if it's still happens, you know that you owe it to them and the person concerned to take the necessary action.

If you need help in strengthening your team and you're really serious about it, give me a ring. (63-918-939-9294)

1 comment:

  1. I certainly agree with you. Firing the person is the right thing to do not only for the company but also for the employee.

    This could lead him to another work where he will "fit" better as a team player --- this might lead him also to promotions.

    I remember Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, recommending to fire an employee who is poor at getting along with people.

    Good post, by the way. =)


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