Today, you as a leader may be thinking about one person on your team who just isn’t measuring up. Maybe it’s how they relate to other people – pure, plain toxicity. Perhaps it is their work – or lack of it. It could be their approach – such as a failure to conform to the company’s core values. Yet even now, in the midst of your frustration, your thoughts skitter away from addressing the issue. The truth of the matter is that you don’t want to have the difficult feedback conversation that is required or make the difficult call to let the person go.
Let’s face it: it is so much easier to put off the unpleasant for another day. Who wants to have the talk that says, essentially, “What you do and how you do it is not supporting our organization”? Or, with more finality, “We are letting you go”? No one enjoys that type of meeting. Most of us prefer to avoid conflict. We don’t want to make the other person feel badly. Even when handled well, such conversations can be hard and ugly and upsetting. Beyond that, in today’s labor environment there is the fear that if the person leaves (either by their choice or yours), that it will be next to impossible to fill their position. Where does that leave you then?
No Decision Is a Decision
Based on two decades of training and coaching hundreds of leaders, we can tell you one thing: we know what happens if you don’t deal with poor performance or bad behavior on your team. We’ve seen it countless times with leaders who are unwilling to take the necessary steps to address matters, preferring instead to kick the can down the road another week, another month, another year.
Remember, no decision is a decision. If you make the decision not to confront the problem, you are making the decision to accept the consequences. Those consequences include:
- Crippling your ability to reach your long-term vision and goals in favor of the short-term relief caused by avoiding the issue.
- De-motivating the rest of your (really good) team because they see you failing to deal with a known problem.
- Putting endless mental and emotional energy into aggravation and even anger toward the person rather than spending your internal resources productively on matters that drive the business forward.
- Delivering sub-par products or services to your customers in an inevitable trickledown effect.
It’s a losing proposition: a loss for your company, for your team, for yourself, and for your customers. Nobody wins. Nobody.
It’s Time to Make the Right Decision
Addressing problems of poor performance or bad behavior requires leadership courage. If you haven’t already done so, it means giving the person the opportunity to change by providing redirecting feedback. You can find a proven 7-step process for giving tough feedback here.
I (Tim) trained a certain leadership team a number of years ago on how to give redirecting feedback. Unbeknownst to me, one of the leaders in the group had a woman on his team who was not working out. After the training, he was sitting at his desk doing the session’s “homework”: writing out what a redirecting feedback conversation would look like from his side. As he was finishing it up, the woman he was writing about knocked on his door and asked for a few minutes of his time. He thought to himself, “Why not give this a shot?” Referring surreptitiously to his notes, he worked his way through the feedback conversation.
To his astonishment, the woman thanked him sincerely for the feedback. She admitted, “I didn’t even know I was doing that.” With her new awareness, she modified her behavior and became an outstanding performer on the team. Problem solved!
If the person does not respond favorably to redirecting feedback, it is time to make the call to let the person go. Easy? No. Positive? Yes.
For example, I (Rip) had witnessed the effect of a staggeringly toxic department head at a company. After dragging their heels for months, the leadership team finally summoned the courage to make the hard call and let the man go. The relief that rippled across the company was practically tangible. The rest of the leadership team was transformed in their attitude, productivity, commitment, and energy because the poison was eliminated from their midst.
A Winning Approach
In the final analysis, dealing with a problem is always more effective than avoiding the problem. If a person responds well to feedback, everybody wins. If the person does not and it is necessary to fire them, you and the rest of your team may have to temporarily shoulder more work until you can replace them. But even in today’s labor market, that is a temporary pain compared to an unending one, and the benefit of getting rid of aggravation and frustration provides substantial compensation.
In our experience, most people want to do well and succeed in their current position. Even in a great job market, it is typically preferable to stay put. That means that when you call on your courage and address the problem, you have a greater chance of having a mutual long-term win than experiencing even a temporary setback. Stop defeating yourself by worrying, “What if it goes badly?” Get yourself excited about the possibilities by saying, “What if it goes well!”