I realize I may have to fire a member of my team after about 3 years. This is one of the first times that I truly think that this is a 'good employee/bad fit' situation, but I'm wavering between having and not having that part of the conversation. So here's the question: Would you want this to be a conversation you had with your boss? If so, what would you want to hear? What would you not want to hear? When would you want to hear it? Both actual experiences and never-happened-but-here's-what-I-think thoughts appreciated.
posted by anonymous to work & money (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have already had performance expectations/review conversations with this person. In my gut I think this is a fit issue, and I have a choice to include my perspective about this being a fit issue. So I'm wondering hivemind, if your supervisor ever had a 'good employee/bad fit' conversation with you, and whether you appreciated it or not. If you did have it, when did you have it? Was it after you made another mistake, or when you seemed burned out - and you felt unappreciated or piled on? Or was it a separate conversation - and you felt blindsided? Was it a few months before you actually were let go, or right before? Did that part of the conversation help you put things in perspective or did it make you more resentful? Did you want to try to convince them that you were a good fit, or did it help you start looking for a new job before you were fired? What did the specifically say that you felt was positive? Negative? From an HR standpoint, this part of a conversation seems greatly discouraged, and I still need to check with my HR about their policy. Legally perhaps this isn't a good idea, but from a 'decent thing to do' standpoint, it might be. Personally, I would want to know that my supervisor thought I was a bad fit but a good employee, and my boss (who also thinks this is a good employee/bad fit situation) has encouraged me to consider including it in my conversation with my staff person. But that's just me. I have a friend who is more just a 'rip off the bandaid' person, which in her case means - fire me if you're going to fire me, but just say you're fired and be done with it.
That's probably enough for those of you who want the short version. Thanks for your answers.
............And if you want to read the long version about why I think it is a 'fit' question:
This person, who I hired, tries and works exceptionally hard, is good at several aspects of the job, is loyal, and has a strong work ethic. They aren't always appreciated by others for the work that they do, though I make it a point to do so. Additionally, this is a new role in my organization, and at times my staff person has clarify their role, which can be challenging.
But, the issue isn't about the employee's skill set, but their judgment. Specifically, though we have set out expectations (I expect you do to X), somehow they don't do it. When we discuss the situation afterwards, there is often a reason as to why they didn't do X. When I ask if they understood that I wanted them to do X, their response is, "yes, but...."
This person supports several other team members on several projects, and has to manage their time well. I will explain that if they are given a task, but can't fulfill it, they have to give it back to the program manager who assigned it to them. Once, when I asked me for help in completing a task, I asked why they didn't ask the project manager and they said, "I was going to, but they are already overwhelmed on another project."
Another time it was my supervisor who asked my staff person for help, but clearly did not give enough information for my staff person to move forward with the task. When I asked them why they didn't just ask my supervisor for the appropriate information, their answer was, "I was going to, but the guy was on vacation, we were speaking on the phone, and it felt awkward, because I was speaking to our supervisor."
In conversations it seems to be a combo of them of really, really enjoying being in a problem solving role and really wanting to appearing competent, which means they sometimes take on problems they can't solve.
We recently discussed this again after a different incident, and I told them that this was a performance issue, and it had to be resolved. My staff person agreed that they should have done things differently, and we decided to work on it for two months.
So, to bring us to the present: most recently, my staff person made a medium level mistake with an important client, and I asked them via email to wait for my supervisor before responding. I'm now looking at an email from them explaining that they went ahead and responded, because they were concerned about maintaining the relationship with the client. While I admit that the client relationship is important, I realized that it was not as important as maintaining a relationship with our supervisor, who would want to be a part of resolving this situation with this particular client. I also think they were horrified that they made the mistake and wanted to try to fix it without getting myself or my supervisor involved. But really, they couldn't.
I call this a 'fit' issue, because I realize from conversations that this person isn't (consciously) trying to be insubordinate, even though they basically have repeatedly not done what I said. It's that when they look at a situation/problem, their values and concerns lead them to frame the situation and develop solutions that are different from my/the organization's values.
Also, there are times when they want to 'show initiative' but are reading the possibility of whether or not this is a situation where 'showing initiative' is more important than 'following the guidelines I set out for you'. And so they bite off more than they can chew, and either get burnt out, or criticized when they can't deliver. My organization is a bit cut throat, rather than collaborative, to when people see a resource (like my staff person) they will use it (and so my staff person's hard work ethic and fear of being identified as in competent by others if they ask questions or say no - their greatest gift/greatest fear - is sort of being turned against them, as they take on more and more work). It's also making my job harder because I have to untangle the mess when this person becomes overwhelmed.
Finally, why has this been going on for three years? We have discussed this situation for three years, repeatedly. In the first year, my staff person said that the issue was that they were just learning their role. In the second, our office went though some pretty dramatic organizational/staffing changes, which made it hard to meet my expectations. But here we are at year three, and it's performance evaluation time again, and I realize that this behavior has improved, but at best it's still a C-. In previous years I could focus on all that they did accomplish, and only lightly suggest improvement on this point in their performance evaluation, but this year, I realize it isn't just about learning the role/the role being complicated, but about this person's people pleasing/striving for perfection ways. I also understand that they don't understand why their behavior around these issues is being so heavily weighted (to the point that they could get fired), in light of all the other things they have achieved.
That's it. Thanks all.