When the Difficult Conversation Is Required
A new client recently called and asked how to have a tough conversation with an employee, a valued individual contributor to the firm for several years. Unfortunately, during the prior six months, the team member had become more and more confrontational and argumentative each and every week. My client had not documented expectations or the weekly issues. He neglected to advise the employee about career counselling or to have the disciplinary discussions when the issues transpired. He lamented both how he got there and anguished over what to do next. To avoid this in your business, try this:
First, be sure to clearly detail duties and expectations. If the organization is large enough to have an employee assistance program, immediately upon learning of or experiencing an issues, refer the party for assistance. However, if your firm is a small one, and if you call the employee on the behavior and suggest improvement, then none occurs, you may have to have additional conversations.
Should you be in a position to have to deal with an untenable situation, one in which no improvement ensues after those direct conversations, you must offer the employee the opportunity to find more suitable, gainful employment elsewhere. Yes, these are difficult conversations. But they are necessary. Then, when you have to discharge an employee for failure to conform to organizational expectations, provide the following:
- A week of severance pay for each year of employment.
· A time and place for the individual to turn in all keys, credit cards, computers and any other company issued equipment immediately.
- Immediate assignment to change all access codes, locks, combinations to safes, doors, computer passwords and email accounts.
- An escort from the premises. Once the employee has left the premises, review the workload that he/she was responsible for. See which other individual contributors on the team can pick up the work in the short term. Review the workload for restructure or reorganization. Often times, you will find that work reorganization was what was needed all along; the situation at hand was the catalyst for implementation.
I know. This is neither pleasant nor fun. But it’s necessary. At the end of the day, you, the leader, are responsible for overall corporate profitability. Removing an unproductive employee or a bad apple is often the sole antidote to improve effectiveness and overall morale in your organization.