At the time, it made sense to hire the person who is now a “C” player on your team.
They seemed like a good fit and based upon your assessment at the time, everything looked like it was going to work out.
Then...reality happened. Life happened.
If it was an administrative hire, things started falling through the cracks and deadlines started getting missed.
If it was a sales hire, calls aren’t being made and sales opportunities are falling through the cracks.
To make things worse, you’ve invested time, energy, money and a whole lot of patience along the way trying to fit what now looks like a square peg into a round hole.
And if you’re lucky (and I don’t mean lucky), you like the person you now have to get rid of.
As with everything in real estate, there’s a system to letting go of a person who likely doesn’t belong on your team any more. The important thing is that you need to do it the right way to both maintain your integrity and keep from having to pay unemployment and/or getting sued.
Here’s how to fire “C” players the right way:
Whether you’re firing your worst friend or your closest family member, the proof is in the pudding.
If you want to make sure that you’re not on the hook for unemployment, be sure to document everything:
- A signed contract when they’re hired stating what’s expected and their agreement to adhere to what’s being asked of them. Be sure not to treat employees like 1099 contractors and vice versa. I’m not an attorney, but I’m fairly certain doing that can muddy the water pretty significantly if your sued or asked to pay unemployment.
- Quarterly reviews, at a minimum, documenting what was shared in the meetings, including areas for improvement and a plan of action on how to achieve the improvements required.
- Written warnings when the job is not being done well, including signatures from your employee/salesperson. No, salespeople can’t collect unemployment, but it’s best to document everything for just such an occasion.
You can be certain that if you let an employee go and they seek unemployment, you will be asked to defend your decision. Having physical documentation will make this unpleasant task a lot easier.
Pass the mirror test
Firing someone is a big responsibility. In most cases, the money you pay to the person you’re going to fire is the money they use to take care of their bills and feed their family.
It’s not something you want to take lightly. To that end, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve done EVERYTHING you can to put this person in the position to succeed before you let them go.
Now, if this person lied to you, stole from you or put you or a client in harm’s way, they need to be fired...no questions asked.
Absent that, you’ll want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror when you let this person go knowing you gave them a legit shot to stay. It will help you sleep nights when you do.
When push comes to shove…
Once you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s and given your “C” player a fair shake, it’s time to let them go.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Create a transition plan. Deliberately select a day and time to let the person go. Ideally, the first day of the week, early in the day is preferred. This encourages the terminated individual to start looking for work sooner rather than later. Friday afternoons are also an option as it creates the least disruption with your staff.
Remember to put company interests first. It’s probably been a while that you’ve been putting up with less-than-acceptable performance in hope that the situation would somehow rectify itself. Make sure there’s a smooth transition so as to do the least damage to company and coworkers.
Be sure to have this employee’s duties covered if you are not replacing them shortly before they go. Otherwise, it’s best not to let someone go until you have their replacement from internal or external sources.
You should also be prepared to let your clients know that you’ve changed members on your team when appropriate.
- Future pace your decision. At the end of the day, it’s your company. That said, look for anything that could be twisted to make it look like the real reason for letting the person go is not the soon-to-be-terminated employee’s performance but rather a pretext or personal grudge.
This isn’t only a good practice in the event that you get a call from an unemployment office or an attorney, but also if you get questions from employees. It’s good to have you reasons documented and as infallible as possible.
- One step at a time. Make sure you put some thought into what you’re going to say before you actually say it. Write down what’s important and how you plan to say it then stick to your guns.
You’re here to announce your decision - an irrevocable decision at that - to terminate a member of your team. Here are a few things to do as part of the process:
1. Get right to the point. There’s no need for small talk. Let the person know that you need to talk to them about their employment with your organization. Then tell them you have bad news for them. It gets their attention and sets the stage for what’s about to happen.
2. Break the bad news. Explain your reason for letting the person go and do it in a couple of short sentences. From there, tell them directly that they have been terminated.State the reason for the termination in one or two short sentences and then tell the person directly that he or she has been terminated. Explain it in this manner: “Your employment has been terminated,” not, “will be terminated.” For example: “As you know, [Name], we’ve discussed the challenges regarding how you’ve been doing [name activity]. Since our most recent review, [x, y, z] still isn’t being handled properly and we’re not seeing the improvement we agreed you would show by this time. We have decided that a change must be made, and as of today your employment has been terminated.”
When you’re firing someone:
- Avoid saying, “I understand how you feel.” It’s likely you don’t, even if you have been fired before.
- Avoid saying, “I know that this hurts right now but later on you’ll realize that this is the best thing that could have happened.” It might just be one of the worst thing that’s happened to them.
- Try not to justify your decision (“You should have known”).
- Kleenex are good to have around at this time.
- Survival is a strong instinct — give it time to work.
- Remember the Golden Rule here...very important.
3. Make sure you take time to listen. There are a number of reactions - good, bad and otherwise - to the news that you’ve just lost your job. The most common are shock, denial, anger and grief. Taking the time to listen to what the employee says will tell you which reaction(s) are occuring. You can be more effective in communicating by knowing which one it is.
4. Cover what comes next. Be very specific concerning what comes next: payroll, benefits, unused vacation time, references, explanations to coworkers, ongoing projects, etc. Since this is a hard separation, you really don’t have the opportunity to get back to them on things like these.
5. Be gracious in the end. Wrap things up by thanking the employee for their contributions to the organization. If you are a man and the employee is a woman, you may want to have a female employee with you for the process.
Take the time to walk your now ex-employee back to their desk and wait while they gather their personal effects. Arrive at the exit at the same time, shake hands, wish them well, and part with dignity and integrity.
It’s never fun when it comes time to fire someone. It’s a life-changing event for all parties involved.
Do your best to make sure that you’ve given the person every chance to succeed before you make the final decision to let them go.
in the end, when it’s time for them to go, it’s time for them to go. Handle the process as I’ve identified here in a professional manner and it should go well for everyone.