Streetwise: Afraid to fire? Learn how to hire.

January 22, 2021

From our friends at Eure Consulting:

The fear associated with having to let someone go is natural. It’s the worst part of being a manager. But, at times, it is necessary. When it becomes clear that someone is not the right fit for their role and isn’t capable of becoming the right fit, you have no choice. You have to do what’s best for the individual and for the company. If they’re not the right fit, you need to help them find somewhere where they will be. Somewhere that they can truly excel.

We often work with companies that have multiple people in the wrong roles. They have been limping along with these poor performers for years, simply because they are afraid to fire them. They make up excuses to justify why they’re keeping them on: we’re too busy to lose them, they do a good job in this area, they’re well connected to the team, at least we know their weaknesses, etc. So they continue to put it off.

Those may feel like acceptable excuses, and you may have even used some of them yourself, but in reality, you’re letting your employees hold your company hostage. Because you’re afraid to fire someone, you’re letting poor performers walk all over you.

Have you ever thought of your lack of firing in terms of the direct consequences it has on the rest of the staff?

In terms of Sanctioned Incompetence? Because that is exactly what you create when you don’t take action and don’t make that dismissal. Without realizing it, you are sanctioning inferior performance. You are attracting those that prefer a lack of accountability and chasing away those who are looking for a high performing team to be a part of. Those that seek a company that rewards contributions and doesn’t tolerate poor performance. By not taking action you reinforce the poor performers and encourage your best talent to leave.

If you continue to let poor performers hold you and your company hostage, Sanctioned Incompetence will start to seep into every corner of your business. You must remove your fear of firing and act now in order to stop the spread.

The truth is that the real fear of firing may actually come from a fear of hiring. From not having confidence in your ability to hire well. With confidence in your ability to hire comes the freedom to fire when needed. Firing not done capriciously or arbitrarily, but for cause. To eliminate sanctioned incompetence.

In order to help relieve you of the fear of firing, and to build your confidence in being able to hire a great replacement for that role, here are three steps to improve your hiring.

Define the Role

Defining the role you are hiring for sets the foundation for not only a good hire but also for a great team member. This is the biggest mistake most companies make in their hiring process.

Taking the time to define the role entails sitting down and really understanding what it is that you are looking for. Seek input from those that interact with the role and understand the success outcomes. What will this role do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? It should be so clearly defined that anyone off the street would be able to read it and understand the requirements of the role. Spell out exactly what you expect from this role. What skills, knowledge, experience, education, behavior, beliefs, etc. do they need?

This sets you up for success in two ways. First, you know what you’re looking for and won’t have to waste time with candidates that aren’t the right fit. Second, you have so clearly defined the expectations for the new hire that they have no excuse for not succeeding.

Match Candidates to the Role

Once you know what you’re looking for, you have to make sure to hire the candidate that is the best fit for that role.

Use the interview process to discover each candidate’s skills, knowledge, experience, education, behavior, beliefs, etc. Get all of your questions answered and gather as much data as possible to make sure that you’re choosing the right person.

One way to shorten the learning curve when getting to know candidates is to use behavioral assessments. Assessments can help you get to know the candidate more deeply, and more quickly, than interviews alone. You can learn what it is that drives them, how they like to communicate, how they operate in the office, and what skills they can bring to the table.

Not only do candidates need to be the right behavioral fit for the role, they also need to be the right cultural fit for the company. Your company’s core values should be well defined and everyone at the company should be hiring and firing by those values. If someone does not share those values, they should not make it past the front door.

Often in hiring implicit biases take over that can affect how we view a candidate, either positively or negatively. You must work to remain neutral in order to make the best hiring decision. Try to rely on objective facts as much as possible. You won’t be able to stop all of your subjective thoughts of course, but you can limit their effect on your judgment by looking for objective proof of your hunches instead of just trusting them explicitly.

Follow a Process

The worst hires often happen when companies feel rushed to fill a role. Having a consistent and followed-by-all hiring process ensures that you are taking the time needed to make a great hire each and every time.

There is nothing you do as a CEO that is more important than seeing that the right people are in your organization. So slow down. Make sure that your organization has a process for the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding of talent. Ensure that every hiring manager in your company follows the process consistently. There is always room for improvement, but you should make changes across all departments so that everyone is still following the same process.

Once everyone is following the same process, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that every employee at your company went through a rigorous vetting process in order to become part of your team. You’ll have the confidence that you have the right people in the right seats. And you’ll have the confidence to make a change quickly if you feel someone is not in the right seat.

If you implement these three steps at your company, you’ll release yourself from your fear of hiring, and by extension, from your fear of firing. Don’t get me wrong, firing someone still won’t be fun or easy, but at least you’ll now be able to make that tough call as soon as you realize that someone isn’t the right fit, instead of letting the issues drag on and on. You’ll be able to let the employee find a better opportunity elsewhere.