Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Time To Say Goodbye

Something that most managers should hate (I do) is telling someone that their services are no longer required.  Some people do this so often that they even earn themselves nicknames that usually end in “the axe” or “the knife”.  Equally, employees may not want to leave an organisation, but they must be able to recognise the signs of when it might be time to start dusting off their CV.

“Letting people go” or employees resigning arise from a number of causes:
  1. The business is downsizing/closing;
  2. The person concerned is “underperforming” (for a variety of reasons);
  3. The person concerned doesn’t “get on” with the boss;
  4. Unacceptable/illegal behaviour.
The first cause may be beyond anyone’s control.  The second, third and fourth are usually within the control of the individual and the organisation (I say “usually” because there are exceptions, such as when you hire by mistake someone who turns out not to be up to the task).

When it comes to downsizing, it’s a “numbers game”.  Organisations look to cull what they perceive as the weaker performers or the more “expensive” staff.  Nothing personal; a decision has to be made, and you’re the one in the firing line.  The trick for employees here is to be honest and self-aware enough to recognise that they may be amongst those selected.

If the business is closing, the sooner you take action, the better.  You need to get your CV out there as soon as possible before the “competition” do.  Understand why the business is closing and work out how you will address this in interviews.

Both individuals and hirers can take action to ensure that causes 2 and 3 arise as rarely as possible.  This begins with honesty and awareness on both sides as to one’s own capabilities as well as what the job really requires and involves.  As an example, my strengths lie in relationship management and problem-solving, yet I was once hired as a salesman - a role which I had never done before and for which I was temperamentally unsuited.  My boss and I  understood this once I had been in the role for a few months.

If you are letting someone go for reason 2, they will probably already be aware that something is wrong (even if they can't quite put their finger on it).  If you manage things properly, you will already have pointed out the problem to them and given them a chance to take corrective action.  The reason is simple - you’ve already invested time and money in hiring them and you owe it to the individual, the organisation and yourself to improve their performance.  If you do, everyone wins.  Sacking people without trying this is the resort of the weak manager.

On another occasion, it turned out that a boss had a reputation for either liking or disliking people.  If he disliked you, you were finished…  A manager who is known to hold personal dislikes will be spotted very quickly.   Within one week of arriving in the department, I was warned about this one - without even asking about him!  People tend to blow the whistle very quickly on these individuals, and their teams are often characterised by high turnover and low morale.  If you find yourself faced with a “love/hate” boss, aim to transfer out as quickly and as diplomatically as you can.

Unacceptable behaviour is within the individual’s control.  The rules of the organisation must be made clear up front along with the penalties for not observing them. 

Knowing when to say goodbye is the individual’s as well as the employer’s responsibility.  Resigning because you are not a “good fit” is a sign of a self-aware and mature employee.  Organisations need to watch out for disproportionate numbers of staff, or of higher numbers of staff on one team compared with others voluntarily saying goodbye.  It could mean you have a problems that is within the organisation’s control…

I have spent more than half my life delivering change in different world markets from the most developed to “emerging” economies. After more than 20 years in the global financial services industry running different service, operations and lending businesses, I started my own Performance Management Consultancy to offer solutions for improving performance, productivity and risk management.  I work with individuals, small businesses, charities, quoted companies and academic institutions. An international speaker, trainer, author and fund-raiser, I can be contacted by email . My website provides a full picture of my portfolio of services.  For strategic questions that you should be asking yourself, follow me at @wkm610.

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