Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Firing Well

Jean-Louis Gassée:

Of course, there is a second type of review, or, more accurately, there isn’t one. If the individual’s performance fails to meet requirements, the message should be succinct and clear: We need to part company. There’s no need to drag the victim through a painful and pointless Performance Improvement Process. (I will briefly address the in-between pass/fail configuration below.)

The termination of a work relationship can be just as clean and respectful as a positive review… and Firing Well starts with a sane and honest hiring process.

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Gosh, I love the "HR-Less Performance Review" template at the post. I should use it.

For firing, the quote above looks good. The balance of the article could be misinterpreted.

> If the dreaded day comes, I assume you’ll already understand that
> things aren’t working...
> I’ll tell you that the decision was made after thoughtful deliberation,
> and it won’t be reconsidered. I won’t suffer you the indignity of Why,
> I’ll only want to discuss the How, what I’m prepared to offer. It will
> be generous, and it will be accompanied by a Covenant Not To Sue...
> I’d rather give money to you and your family than to lawyers.
> ...
> If the day comes, the offer should be generous, an amount that
> sometimes horrifies Board members and investors. “What? You’re giving
> six months to that [expletive deleted]. We shouldn’t be rewarding bad
> behavior!”

He's more than generous here. Six months? Crazy, but every manager should have this leeway. It *is* partially your team's fault you hired poorly. (And if your board is calling the employee "[expletive deleted]", man, you did hire poorly. The problem is *much* larger than the employee.)

Just two issues:

1.) "I assume you'll already understand that things aren't working."

You'd hope so, but tell me how? The "assume" there is easy for a manager without good personal skills to misunderstand. Be fair. Give constant, honest, direct feedback beforehand. Ensure each of your team members knows, in no uncertain terms, *how* things aren't going well, and what's required to turn things around. If you're doing it right, they'll leave before you fire them.

In fact, that's probably my worst critique of this setup. Gassée's given a lot of incentive to wait to be fired. Mature employees see when there's not a match and will move on. Fairly mature employees in this scheme might see it as their right to get fired (and compensated). (I'm assuming Gassée fires some pretty senior, C-level folk where this doesn't just apply, but is a sort of floor. That, I've never done.)

2.) "I won’t suffer you the indignity of Why..."

See 1.) Again, if you're playing it right, they'll know, and it won't hurt to review why this person's strengths don't work *here*. If you have a good working relationship, you *can* have this discussion, even *should* have already had it minus this last line. You also already have the out, and if they push towards a give and take, to end the discussion. If they stink so badly you can't have this conversation because there's nothing positive to discuss, you need to review your hiring process.

I realize discussing specifics can have legal ramifications as well, but it's not impossible to do as part of a mature parting. They can and do happen.

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