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Fire fast, not last.

                 Here is one that takes a real leap for a younger manger or CEO to believe.  After hiring someone with all of the attendant enthusiasm followed by the training and learning curve, if an employee shows signs of weakness in the job or problems dealing with contemporaries, it is the natural tendency for most of us to go first into coaching mode, and reset the observation clock to see if our excellent coaching does the job.  A month or so later, when no apparent change has been noticed, we may move from coaching to a polite warning and maybe even the dreaded note-to-file.  Another month, and the probability of a decision to separate becomes obvious and the move initiated.  Lawyers will tell you that this progressive chain of moves is good for the company, protecting against lawsuits by a disgruntled former employee.

                But surprisingly, in post-exit interviews after emotions have dissipated, most former employees (who were handled respectfully during the separation process) and most all managers will agree that the move should have been made sooner.  The former employee will often state that he or she was at least somewhat unhappy in the job, knowing that the fit was not as good as it should be. The manager will most often admit that he did not move aggressively, following his best judgment in coaching the employee toward separation much earlier.

[Email readers continue here…] Firing fast in most every case is best for everyone, as opposed to long, drawn out sessions and stressful employee periods of waiting for a verdict in between sessions.  It does sound counterintuitive. But I would believe the post-exit interviews.  Why not conduct your own survey of fellow executives and managers and see what they think.  If they agree, you should recalibrate your expectations and act sooner, all with the important caveat that employees must always be treated with respect, and there are many times when documentation to file is a required protection for the company against possible lawsuits, especially by protected classes of employees.

  • Rick Munson

    Dave, I cannot agree more with your feelings that “fire fast not last” is the course to take. It produces a “win win”. The employee is freed from a job he is not happy with and the employer is free to move on.

    This supports your wisdom to “encourage everyone toward achieving the same goal using the practice of rewarding for achievement of milestones.”

    My question for you and your readers is this: Who has experience with implementing “performance based” compensation plans or “rewarding for achievement” and wishes to share the knowledge? This is especially so in an existing organization where “my annual dependable salary” is the historic norm for all employees.

    Warm Regards to all!!


  • Don Kasle

    Dave —

    You know me well enough to know that I am an independent thinker and am not afraid to state an opinion contrary to the person(s) with whom I am talking (or corresponding).

    I say that to create some “credibility” in the response I have to your piece in today’s Berkonomics.

    As a long-time bank CEO and even longer time banking senior executive who hired and fired staff members for almost 40 years, I can attest to the fact that you are 1,000% correct – fire fast – not last. I have rarely spoken to a manger – who finally got around to terminating someone – who didn’t say to me, “I wish I had done that much, much sooner.”

    When someone realizes that an associate is now a liability and no-longer an asset, the company, the other staff members, and the associate themselves will all be much better off if the separation occurs sooner rather than later.

    None of us like to terminate people and so we tend to do the human thing – postpone doing that which we don’t like. In this case you are hurting all concerned by waiting and delaying.

    You said it best, Dave – “fire fast, not last.”

    Don Kasle
    Tech Coast Angels

  • Many of you would like more on this subject. I’ll provide this in future insights. Thanks for your great interest in this one. – Dave

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