Perfect Paper Co. is a growing paper company with 30 employees. One particular employee simply isn't meeting expectations. Their performance is sub-par, and unfortunately this is causing everyone else in the organization to pick up the slack. This employee appears to be giving their best effort and understands the negative consequences that their work is having on the organization. However, they continue to underperform. If you are the owner of Perfect Paper, what do you do?
For many business leaders, the hardest part of leadership is determining the moment when someone should be fired. Employees with harmful character or ill intentions must be let go. However, separating with an employee the right way, especially one with high character, can be a difficult challenge. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up..." How do Christians build someone up while in the process of letting them go? It starts by doing your due diligence… keeping the employee and the company's best in mind.
Here are four questions to ask yourself to help navigate the challenge of separating ties with an employee.
Have I asked the employee how I can help them?
When underperformance is an ongoing issue, the best employers ask their employees, "How can I help you?" An employee's poor performance at work can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as their relationship with co-workers or their current situation at home. When you look below the surface, you can better understand your employees and their needs. This doesn't mean firing an employee is off the table. It means you will have asked the right questions to gain critical clarity and insight to make a more informed decision.
Are my expectations clear?
As a rule, when expectations are unclear, then accountability is unfair. It is easy to jump to conclusions before you realize that an employee was confused by what you required of them. These moments of frustration can be avoided if you maintain clarity in your expectations from the outset. However, once your expectations are made clear, then it is now your Christian duty to hold that someone accountable for their actions.
Is their behavior hurting the company or other employees?
One of the clearest signs of when to terminate an employee is when their actions are directly and repeatedly hurting the company or other employees. As a Christian leader, if you fail to confront obvious issues that tear down the organization, you are failing to lead. Not only that, but the individual's negative behavior may be the result of a work environment that doesn't match their skillset. As leaders, you must be willing to objectively examine the facts and make the tough decisions that promote the well being of the company as well as the struggling employee.
Will the employee be surprised that I decided to let them go?
In most cases, when you decide to let someone go, the moment you decide to do so should be never be the first difficult conversation between the two of you. Remember, letting someone go should never be reactive. Avoid surprises. Document and initiate conversations that lay out a positive path forward, as well as the negative consequences of continual poor performance.
Many Christian leaders believe that Christian leadership requires you to be nice 100% of the time. Everyone is called to be accountable and responsible for their actions, words, and attitudes. If leaders do not hold people to this standard, then they are not leading.
Although letting an employee go is never fun, it can be a necessary step in helping the company and the individual become the best they can be. As you navigate the challenges of leadership, never forget that tough love is still a form of love. Truly loving others is often hard and inconvenient, but it is a part of your calling as a Christian leader.