When Nice Employees Get the Boot

“As a leader, are you willing to stubbornly demand the best out of your team? Or, are you wasting time babysitting?”  – Misti Burmeister .

While I certainly believe it is better to be loved than to be feared, the best leaders are those who care enough to be tough – who refuse to settle for anything less than the best from their employees.

This means getting stubborn about your expectations and also doing everything you can to help your team achieve new levels of success. And sometimes – when your coaching and mentoring aren’t making a difference with certain individuals – it means knowing when to let them go … for the sake of the company, your clients, their colleagues, and their own futures.

Handing out pink slips isn’t fun, and it may not feel loving in the moment, but it’s often the best thing you can do for a talented professional who isn’t meeting her full potential. 

Jackie, a director at a physical therapy/exercise center, recently received the following note from a former employee – the kind of note we all want to get.

Hey Jackie,

You were my first boss when I started in the business, and I thank you for all you taught me. I know I was rough around the edges then but I have come a long way since!

I moved to San Francisco and started my own business. I have had so many awesome experiences and opportunities in the years since I met you. I was selected for Dr. Phil’s Bridal Weight Loss Challenge and got to serve as a trainer for one of the contestants on The Biggest Loser.

I owe a lot of my success to you [for being] so hard on me. Just thought you should know I did actually learn from my mistakes and made it through!

Thanks!

Lisa Sumbard

It’s been more than a decade since Jackie fired Lisa, but the younger woman still remembers the impact that Jackie had on her career – and her life.

When I asked Jackie what she did to help Lisa grow, and why she ultimately threw in the towel, here`s what she shared:

1. Feedback First. Lisa was handling medical documents, which made it critical that she dot all “I’s” and cross all “T’s”. Jackie and the other team leaders gave Lisa plenty of feedback and warning about the impact that her lack of attention to detail could have, but she continued to repeat the same mistakes. 

2. Stop Babysitting. When Jackie found herself re-checking all of Lisa’s work, she felt like she was “babysitting” her employee. After training and coaching Lisa, and having her practice on “dummy” documents, Jackie finally reached her breaking point. “There’s a learning curve for everyone,” Jackie told me. “But I shouldn’t have had to double-check all her work after so many conversations.” 

3. “Nice” Isn’t Enough. “Lisa was nice and a hard worker,” explained Jackie. “So, we kept her on, even though her carelessness was putting us at risk. But ultimately, we had to let her go. She didn’t do her job well enough to help us keep promises to our customers.” 

Are you willing to stubbornly demand the best out of your team and, if necessary, to do what Jackie did? Or, are you wasting time babysitting?

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.

 

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