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3 Tips for an Effective Involuntary Separation

Tips for Successfully Transitioning an Underperforming Employee Out

Trending in HR now: employee engagement. Trending in HR now: hiring and retaining top talent. These two topics have CEOs, COOs and HR managers taking the coal chute into a pit full of questions about performance matrixes, benefit packages, “The Millennial” and other buzzword topics. One topic that seems to get less attention, but tends to have a great impact on retaining top performers, is effective involuntary separation.

What do you do if you have an underperformer on your team that is affecting your whole team’s productivity? How can you effectively perform an involuntary termination for a performance-related issue? We’re not talking a breach of employee handbook policy. Those terminations are more easily supported and completed. We’re taking a deeper dive into the honest to goodness, trying their best but missing the mark, employee.

When you can effectively help an employee transition from a job they are not equipped to do, you demonstrate leadership and insight into how your entire team performs. You also demonstrate your insight into how your team performs by foreseeing and removing obstacles that hinder the success of your top performers. The fact remains that these are the most difficult separations to complete with success. As you prepare, be aware of your emotions leading up to any conversation about performance. Remember to remain professional, objective and empathetic. Ensure that you will have privacy during your conversation, and you do your best to limit distractions.

These conversations can be challenging, so here are three tips to ease the process and help your employee leave with dignity.

1.) Help the employee to see the situation for themselves.

You can do this by asking questions, such as:

  • Is this job what you thought it would be?
  • What challenges are you facing in your role?
  • How often do you leave work feeling frustrated? What do you think is causing the frustration?
  • Is your work making you happy?
  • Think of a time when you were at your best.
    • How did you feel?
    • What were you doing?
    • Do you ever have that opportunity here?
  • What do you spend most of your time working on here? Is it what you thought you would be spending your time on when you began this role?

Through this reflective process, your employee should start to see that this job may no longer be fulfilling for them, or never was. They may also decide the job was not what they had expected. You can then start to mutually agree that a decision needs to be made which helps both you and the employee find a better fit.

2.) Help them leave with dignity

When you feel it’s necessary to sit down with the employee for the final decision, help them keep their head held high. You can ensure your employee leaves feeling like they made the right decision by saying some of the following during your discussion:

  • Express your interest in their happiness. They should never compromise their happiness out of fear of the unknown.
  • Show that you are thankful for the work they’ve contributed
  • Share with them their strengths
  • Give them an exit strategy and support system
  • Come to an agreement that separation is the best choice

(Note: One way to tell if you’ve been successful is if the employee thanks you following the conversation.)

Once you and your employee have come to an agreement that separation is the best route, you should agree on the exit strategy and severance agreement. If applicable, the employee may stay on long enough to effectively help transition some of their responsibilities to other team members.

3.) Provide a severance option

Severance agreements can be a negotiation strategy for you in the separation process. If a severance agreement is possible, it can help you effectively transition the employee out faster, while giving them the relief of having some income as they search for a new position.

Once you successfully help an underperforming employee transition from your team, you should notice an improvement in team morale and performance. After all, a significant factor in employee engagement is trust and faith that a team leader will take action and make the right decisions for the benefit of the team. Allowing your team to surpass a plateau of mediocre performance by lifting this type of weight can result in higher morale, better ideas and the potential for a superior company.

Do you have questions about your company’s HR needs? Please contact Jennifer Wintrow, HR Consultant, of Skoda Minotti’s Human Resources Group, at 440-605-7208 or email Jennifer.

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