So you have a “problem child”. No business is without one. We all make hiring errors. Or you didn’t make a hiring error, but your employee’s life has changed (either at work or at home) and now they are struggling which is causing pain for many people. Recruiting and replacing someone is expensive. Training a new person is time-consuming and disruptive to you and your other staff. Terminations put you at risk for unemployment payments or lawsuits. Before you fire (terminate, layoff, RIFF) someone, try these things first:

1. Build an honest open culture. Employees have lives and they need to be able to share their concerns to some degree. Make your self and/or your HR team accessible.

2. Make expectations clear. Don’t be more restrictive than is necessary but do be very clear about work times, attendance, job role and your entire business environment.

3. Have an honest conversation with the employee. What has changed? Is it something at work? How are they feeling about their job? DO NOT WAIT UNTIL EVALUATION TIME TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION. Do it at the first sign of trouble. Do not let your own resentment or anger build up over time.

4. Evaluate this person’s job. Are they bored? Are they overlooked? Are they truly consistently overworked? Do you actually need someone in this position (our recent economy and subsequent layoffs have proven that many businesses simply had too many employees).

5. Ask them what they think would help? A change in schedule? Additional responsibility? Relocating a desk? Some short-term time off? Be prepared ahead of time for what you are willing to do for them. Unfortunately, not all employees are worth this effort.

Finally, document document document. If you do have to let this employee go, you want to be prepared in case of an unemployment hearing or worse. Whenever you have a disciplinary conversation with someone, have them initial or sign indicating that you’ve talked (it is not an admission of agreement or guilt).

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by Steven Schlagel