Friday, May 01, 2009
No matter how experienced you are as a manager it's never fun to give a negative review to an employee, much less fire someone.
I recently gave some advice to a colleague who was lamenting going into a performance review for one of his people who was delivering far below expectations. It was at the point where if major improvements weren't made soon he would have to be fired. My approach helped and he just e-mailed me saying the discussion went much better than expected, so I thought I'd share the leadership tip.
When you sit down face to face with that problem employee for the dreaded bad review, before you go into your documented laundry list of their problems, weaknesses, and failings - let them talk first.
There's a good chance they know that at least some bad news is coming and they'll feel better if they get a chance to articulate the problems right up front in their own words. An intro like "Bill, before I go into the details of this review, why don't you tell me how you think you've performed over the past X months" is a great way to kick off this session.
It will give your employee a bit of empowerment during an uncomfortable situation and may also give you some examples you can refer to later where you know they already agree with your assessment. If you have a formal document with your feedback and scores in writing, turn it over face down on the table during this first part of the chat. Then, when it's your turn to talk you can show the ugly details after the ice has been broken a bit.