This week's book giveaways are in the AI and JavaScript forums.
We're giving away four copies each of GANs in Action and WebAssembly in Action and have the authors on-line!
See this thread and this one for details.
Win a copy of GANs in ActionE this week in the AI forum
or WebAssembly in Action in the JavaScript forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
programming forums Java Mobile Certification Databases Caching Books Engineering Micro Controllers OS Languages Paradigms IDEs Build Tools Frameworks Application Servers Open Source This Site Careers Other all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
Marshals:
  • Campbell Ritchie
  • Bear Bibeault
  • Paul Clapham
  • Jeanne Boyarsky
  • Knute Snortum
Sheriffs:
  • Liutauras Vilda
  • Tim Cooke
  • Junilu Lacar
Saloon Keepers:
  • Ron McLeod
  • Stephan van Hulst
  • Tim Moores
  • Tim Holloway
  • Carey Brown
Bartenders:
  • Joe Ess
  • salvin francis
  • fred rosenberger

Would you fire this person?

 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 35
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Howdy, folks. Me again: your friendly local journalist.

I've decided to write an article for my site, the IT Business Network (http://www.itbusinessnet.com), about one of the most painful tasks in being a manager: firing an employee. From my observations and experience, nobody enjoys the experience, even if the employee clearly deserves to be booted. And it's much worse when the individual is a drag on the team rather than a complete failure; at what point do you say, "I give up. I have to get rid of this person"?

It's an age-old question, which affects IT people just as much as anybody else, but I think we can all learn from the way the other people handle such situations. With your help, I'm hoping to write an article that collects the feedback of several people in all walks of the business (software development, web design, network administration) and synthesizes it into some sort of consensus ("wisdom" might be too strong a word).

Rather than speak in generalities, I created a little scenario. I'll present a description about a hypotethical employee (not any one individual, but a composite of people I've encountered), and then ask you how you'd handle the situation.

There are no right or wrong answers, or at least I don't think there are.

Do me a favor -- and, I think, add to your own fun. Respond with your answers before you read anybody else's message. Let's not be swayed by others' opinions, here, though it's perfectly fine with me if you arm-wrestle after you see what others had to say.

Also, since I'm writing an article, I'd very much appreciate it if you'd let me know how to refer to you in the article (by private e-mail if necessary).

Enough of that. On to our story.

Claire has worked for the company for two or three years. She can occasionally do brilliant work; one out of five of her projects (or software applications, or web designs) is really remarkable. Unfortunately, one of those other five projects is "okay," and three of them are... not quite bad, but they give you the itch to say, "I could sure have done that a lot better myself."

Unfortunately, Claire is also high maintenance. She seems to be a trouble magnet, and always has an excuse for substandard or late work: her car broke down, her guinea pig needed an emergency trip to the vet, her brother just split up with his wife and she had to help with the kids. And instead of giving you a short summary of the problem and how she'll fix it ("I know this puts you in a bind, but I can get the code done by Tuesday"), she comes into your office to tell you her whole life story. Claire, you think, this is a lot more than I need to know. And in gratitude for listening, she sends you small but inappropriate gifts; this makes you uncomfortable (should you take a gift from an employee? even if it's only a $15 book you'd wished for?) but there's nothing precisely wrong with it.

People on the team like her, and she's supportive of what the company and department is doing. She can just be a bit wearing.

But recently, her work has taken a turn for the worse. The bright spots are rarer. She's never been good about meeting deadlines, but the last miss was pretty bad. And now she said something that pissed off the client (or the Big Boss) which makes you look ineffective. You're pretty steamed about the incident. Is it time to say farewell to Claire?

What do you do:
1. Fire her. She's not contributing to the team, and is dragging away your energy.
2. Have a heart-to-heart conversation with her about her declining standards. Even though you know she'll cry, and even though you've had similar conversations and they didn't work for long.
3. Sigh, and continue on with life. Not everyone who works for you can be the best.
4. Call the HR department. Let THEM deal with her.
5. Something else. What?

(If you aren't a manager, then tell me which option you would *hope* your manager would choose, and perhaps which one you think he WOULD choose. Be sure to let me know -- there may be a difference between managers and team member responses.)

Which of these would affect the above decision? and if so, how?

* HR Department practices (i.e. the company needs a smoking gun to prove incompetance)

* Gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. (i.e. it would look bad to fire the only/other woman in the office)

* Cost of replacement (i.e. it would cost twice as much to bring in someone new with equal experience)

* Employee versus contractor status

* Political favoritism: the VP likes Claire

For those who would choose to fire Claire: what exactly would you say, after "Please come into my office. And close the door"?

In other words: assuming that none of us likes to fire an employee, we at least want some guidance about how to go about it. Those of us on the receiving end often feel that we didn't get the whole story, too. What do you leave out?

So write out the first paragraph of how you'd break the news to her.

With some luck -- and your help! -- this could be a really useful case study on how managers cope with problem employees. At least, I hope so.

I'm going to try to collect opinions and write the article by the end of the week. So please don't set this aside and figure that you'll answer it in a week or two!

I'd like honest opinions, so it's perfectly fine with me if you write privately to me at esther@bitranch.com. And I'd rather quote you generally ("an IT manager at a financial firm in the midwest") than not at all.

Any questions? Am I leaving out something dumb?

Esther Schindler
senior writer and editor, IT Business Network
www.itbusinessnet.com
 
Sheriff
Posts: 6037
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My $.02...

Asking about hypotheticals is challenging, since there are often subtleties of the situation. There are no hard and fast management rules, only guidelines which need to be adapted to each situation.

--Mark
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 211
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ask HR (or your BOSS) to have a final heart-to-heart conversation with her (since you already have done so) about her declining standards and give her THE FINAL warning. Tell her that a little mistake is a good enough reason for firing her, and then wait...
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 463
Eclipse IDE Tomcat Server Java
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If I were in your shoes I will do...

Item.2 then I will wait for one month, if any progress ok, else, I will have to go for 1.

- Surya
 
Esther Schindler
Ranch Hand
Posts: 35
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for all the feedback so far.

I'm listening, with rapt attention.
 
Ranch Hand
Posts: 687
Hibernate jQuery Spring
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am not a manager and belong to the technical stream, but have worked on grooming people hence here is my attempt.


Originally posted by Esther Schindler:


Claire has worked for the company for two or three years. She can occasionally do brilliant work; one out of five of her projects (or software applications, or web designs) is really remarkable. Unfortunately, one of those other five projects is "okay," and three of them are... not quite bad, but they give you the itch to say, "I could sure have done that a lot better myself."



I feel each employee enjoys a niche in the company and the concern of the managers is always to find the right people for each kind of job, now if Claire was good in a certain kind of work, if I am the manager I will see if I can provide her with the kind of work she can excel in my scope. It normally happens that the kind of work that needs to be done is not what someone is quite adept at but the skills can be used as a motivator. Say for example the current work is some maintenance work while the person excels in giving solutions, the person can always be spurred to look at the maintenance from a solution perspective and come up with ideas which can make the maintenance more productive. The idea is to identify the strengths of a person and use that in every sphere of the person�s work.


Originally posted by Esther Schindler:


But recently, her work has taken a turn for the worse. The bright spots are rarer. She's never been good about meeting deadlines, but the last miss was pretty bad. And now she said something that pissed off the client (or the Big Boss) which makes you look ineffective. You're pretty steamed about the incident. Is it time to say farewell to Claire?



A manager is someone who stands up for the team, a team will look up to a manager as a leader and put in the best if they know that the manager is not there just to get the work done. If a person has given the best but currently for some reasons is not up to the mark, the manager needs to spend some efforts to understand the issue as a team is as good as the weakest member on board. Getting rid of Claire and replacing her with someone would seem to be a good idea in the short term but what effect the same has on the morale of the team is also something which has to be thought about before reaching the decision of firing the person.


Originally posted by Esther Schindler:


5. Something else. What?


Have a one to one meeting, no heart to heart but cutting straight to the point to avoid going off-track.

The conversation will start off with the manager giving Claire her positive points, where she excels, why she is liked in the company to set a positive tone to the meeting as what happens is if the manager starts off with the persons mistakes the person goes on the defensive and starts thinking that the manager is out to get him rather than thinking that the intention of the manager could also be of help.
Then spell out things which are going wrong, deadlines missed, and work not up to the quality, mistakes not quite expected for the person and steps to correct them.

Things have to be identified which need urgently addressed such as deadlines and quality of work, while things like her working on not giving excuses can be taken up on a longer timescale. The idea is not to pile up on the employee.

The result of the meeting should be a plan that Claire herself comes up with where she has identified her weakness and also the steps to correct them and the timelines. Claire also needs to know that the manager is working with her on this and not against her. At the same time it also needs to be made absolutely clear to Claire that she has to stick to the plan for things to work in her favor.

At the end of the timelines, have a review of where clair stands and if there is considerable improvement and scope for more than hang on to her and if there is no improvement or worse, things have gone even more downhill let her know that she can no longer continue with the company.
[ August 11, 2006: Message edited by: Devesh H Rao ]
 
Esther Schindler
Ranch Hand
Posts: 35
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My article is live!

Not everyone who responded was quoted, but *everyone*'s input made a difference. THANK YOU!

Would You Fire This Person?

No one likes to show an employee the door, and few of us (thankfully) have reason to acquire the skill to fire someone gracefully and fairly. This article describes a Problem Employee and explores how 55 IT managers and workers would handle her. See if you agree with the consensus.

http://business.itbusinessnet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=57270
 
Everyone is a villain in someone else's story. Especially this devious tiny ad:
Java file APIs (DOC, XLS, PDF, and many more)
https://products.aspose.com/total/java
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!