How to correct issues with problem employees

One business owner replied to last week’s email about courage with this question:

My fear is I just don’t want to confront people and tell them they are fired which I’ve never done in my business. I remember watching The Apprentice and admiring the way Trump fired people. Back then, I was not even in business, but when I watched The Apprentice I thought to myself, “I can never fire people like that”. Now I that I own my own business, I still can’t do it.

If you’ve had employees like we talked about on Tuesday then you know why it’s important to be able to fire people! But you’re not alone, even with behavior like that I had to coach business owners through feeling OK to fire people.

Business owners who are reluctant to fire tend to tolerate a lot of bad behavior in their business. Because they aren’t setting good standards of behavior they are left to make up the difference themselves, causing them to work longer hours and adding untold worries to their lives.

The only way you maintain control of your culture is by setting standards of behavior and being intolerant of those whose performance doesn’t measure up. I’m not saying that you should fire people for one-time, or minor issues — there’s a difference between a one-time screw-up and a pattern of bad behavior. Someone who’s an otherwise strong performer can occasionally slip up, you don’t need to fire them, but you do need to have a performance conversation with them!

It’s important to start by having standards. There is a way we do things here and I expect that things are done that way. 

For some issues, your company values supply the standards. By having clearly delineated values that are well understood by all you can say, “We’ve talked about how respect is a high value here. That conversation I overheard just now is not reflecting that value, let’s talk about how to correct that.

In other situations, it’s work ethic or quality workmanship that’s an issue. In those cases, you can ask, “Is this your best work?” to help elevate their standards.

The rule of thumb that I use is when I feel like I need to say something — I need to go ahead and say it. Trouble often arises when I ignore that little voice in my head. A little discomfort now usually saves loads of trouble later.

These conversations should be drama-free, there’s no need for conflict, just a simple one-to-one conversation. “Hey, this is what I noticed. This is what I’d like to see instead. Can you do that? Great, I’m happy to have you a part of the team, let’s get this corrected…” That’s it. You’re done. 

If that conversation puts them back on the right path, that’s the best outcome for everyone. If not then you might have to have it again and add in more consequences. Here’s a script I use to work from that first conversation to an eventual firing over a series of low drama conversations. You can download it and see for yourself. 

Are there some performance conversations you know you need to have? Are there people coming to mind as you read this today? Go have that conversation this morning, then write me back and tell me how it went!

Download the script now

Here’s the script I use to go from that first performance conversation through “no drama” consequences all the way up to an eventual firing (if needed).

You can download it today and see it for yourself.