We have had lots of clients who wrestle with recurring internal issues that result in errors, expenses, and inefficiencies. Often, these problems can be tracked back to specific employees. At the point where we’re brought in as a consultant to help resolve the end problems the employer is investing in a contractor, building systems to address the issues, and still dealing with the fallout. Sometimes they’re losing huge amounts of money or numbers of clients while they wrestle with the internal shortcoming. Shockingly, they often know who’s creating the problems before we tell them and they’re often reluctant to let that person go.
There are lots of ways employers get into this situation. “She worked for my Dad, and I would feel awful if I let her go.” “He’s been here forever and has a lot of personal stuff going on.” “She’s the only one who knows how to use that system.” “He’s really scary when he’s mad and I don’t want to have a confrontation in the workplace.”
None of those are acceptable reasons to keep a dysfunctional employee. As a rule, by the time you think someone doesn’t belong in your organization you should be monitoring them on a PIP or firing them. Keeping someone on and resenting them or covering for them is not compassion. Excellent managers build excellent teams and part of that is turning those who aren’t a good fit in a new direction. You can fire employees and still be a very good person.
Meanwhile, the good person you are needs to be painfully clear on why you’re running this company. Your business does not exist to shelter people who aren’t providing valuable service. It exists to provide a service or product to your clients, make a profit, and, most importantly, feed your family.
You CAN and SHOULD fire people who aren’t a good fit for their role. The process might be complicated but it is never impossible. You might need to work with them on a PIP (performance improvement plan) first because maybe the failure is in the management they’re received to this point. You might need to document their issues so you can defend an unemployment claim. You might need to be searching for a replacement or making plans to cope without someone in their position so that you can let them go and continue doing business.
You definitely do not need to wait until they realize it’s time to go. You don’t need to expend resources trying to accommodate a legacy staffer who can’t adapt to a new business model, an employee who’s ruining office morale, or a new hire that just isn’t a good fit. You don’t need to preserve relationships that already don’t work. Sometimes the answer isn’t more technology, more training, or more accommodations. Sometimes the answer is different people. You don’t have to work around problems when you can solve them.
If you feel strongly that you need to support someone who isn’t a capable employee then write them a check. Pay them an allowance. Make their rehab/training program/utility bill a donation you make freely. But don’t let them keep working for you. The damage they do to your bottom line, your reputation, and your culture is never worth whatever mercy you think you’re showing.