Salvage the employee before you fire an employee
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Salvage the employee before you fire an employee

Work on behavior adjustment before you fire an employee

There are two things you want to take into account when trying to get an employee to change. Once you start to understand where that employee is coming from, it becomes more fun because both physically and mentally you’re equipped on any given day to handle what’s coming. But the emotional thing, that becomes the tough part.

Good managers understand that the relationship with employees is emotional, not logical.
The more analytical you are, the tougher time you’re going to have in management. So start to understand what’s going on.

Can you change them? No. Can you motivate them? You can create an atmosphere for motivation. But to really understand the motivation of anyone around you, ask and answer the following two questions: One, what’s being rewarded? Two, what’s their motivation for change?

If somebody is coming in late, try to find out why they are coming in late. Figure out what happens when they come in late. If nothing happens, then of course they’re going to keep doing it. It’s more fun to drive management crazy.

Figuring this out is not complicated. It’s constant work, and it’s hard work. And part of the problem is there are not enough good frontline supervisors and management. And usually it’s because there’s still no training. They get thrown up against the wall and people just hope that they stick.

The issue of attitude.
You’ll want to fire an employee because you think they have a bad attitude. As managers, get the word “attitude” out of your workplace vocabulary. Get it out of the handbook. Opposing legal counsel will look at it and think you’re talking about the list. Anybody who uses attitude means age, sex, race, religion, national origin or disability.

Nobody has a good or bad attitude. You can’t fire an employee for a bad attitude, because you can’t manage attitude. Get a new word. Keep the idea. Go after behavior. Create a standard for maintaining a positive work atmosphere by acting, communicating in a manner so that you get along with customers, clients, coworkers and most importantly, you. After all, you are the boss. If someone comes to you and says its not fair, they’re right. At work the closest anyone comes to fair is consistent. What you owe to the employee is the communication of the standard.

Managers and supervisors are pretty good at communicating performance standards, lousy at communicating behavior standards.

Now, this is a scale. You weigh this. Sometimes your sales people are obnoxious. You just hope they go out and sell and stay out of the office. But you’ll put up with that behavior because of the performance. If they’re going to sell a million dollar account everyday I don’t care when they come in. Come in, drop off the account, get out. Or if it’s a situation where you need coverage, then communicate your expectations. Hold people accountable. That way if you have to fire an employee, you have documented, measurable standards to refer back to. So when it comes to deciding whether or not to fire an employee, you’ll make performance versus behavior decisions.

There may come a point where you finally decide that it doesn’t matter how well they perform, their behavior is detrimental to the team, and it’s time to fire the employee. Again, in good times you can afford to carry this. In bad times, you can’t and you have to fire an employee. It sends the wrong message.

When managers fire an employee, it usually involves behavior, not performance. So you want to communicate. Just like you communicate performance expectations, you want to communicate behavior expectations before you fire an employee.

Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “Yes, You Can Fire Without Fear! What Every Supervisor Needs to Know” by Hunter Lott on April 29, 2009

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