In 2016, one of my clients was going to let an employee go.
This employee had been at the organization for some time, and he knew his stuff, but the “fit” was not good. The employee’s communication style with clients, and interactions with fellow employees was not positive. They felt they had tried everything.
However, with some coaching intervention and tools, the client was not only able to keep the employee on the bus, but another employee remarked they wished they could clone this “new version” of the employee.
Leaving The Bus
While it’s often quite possible to keep an employee on the bus who some think may be a lost cause, there are other times when employees don’t have the right skills, aren’t a good fit for the culture, not engaged etc., when the ride must come to an end, and the exit door must open.
For some leaders, however, letting go of an employee is the most difficult thing they do at work, for many reasons; a long-time employee has been committed to the company, may not easily secure another job, is very likeable despite not being a fit, etc.,
When All Else Has Failed
When it’s clear an employee needs to be invited off the bus, there are a number of guidelines to follow below. Number four is something I regularly see as a coach:
- Make sure it’s legal + no surprises – Whether fit or performance, have you discussed expectations and given the employee an opportunity to improve?
- Be prepared – Every employee reacts differently to the news. If you’ve followed guideline #1, the employee will likely know what’s coming. Be kind, but not lengthy. Don’t go on and on. And do offer an exit interview. You will likely learn something.
- Be generous – When you’re letting someone go, if you are able, be generous. No matter the situation, the employee will likely experience financial hardship. If you can be generous, do.
- Don’t delay – After you have made efforts to remedy the situation, don’t delay. Other employees know when someone is not doing their job, not a good fit, not committed etc., Keeping an employee on the bus when he/she is not working out negatively impacts employee engagement. “If what this employee does/doesn’t do is okay, I guess it’s okay for all of us.”
In The End
After the employee has been released, leaders often feel increased energy, see an uptick in engagement, and increased productivity.
If you’ve been waiting to invite an employee off the bus, delay no more.
Make room for employees who want to find a seat, who will do the type of work you need, and be a good fit. Who knows, they may even bring a few more passengers and clients along with them!