if you are unwilling to fire low performers do not be a supervisor

Last month I was part of a two person team conducting a Council on Accreditation (COA) review of an agency in Missouri serving domestic violence victims. After a long day of surveying my fellow team member Ed and I went out for dinner. Conversation quickly turned to my book “Being A Supervisor 1.0”. Ed offered an insight into a necessary characteristic of a good supervisor which I did not address so directly in my book (but which I will address in any future edition).

He recounted his first promotion to a supervisory position when during his job interview his boss asked him if he was willing to fire people, telling him if he wasn’t then he should withdraw his candidacy for the position. How true it is, a good supervisor has to be willing to fire people, and sooner than later. If you don’t fire low performing employees, then most certainly you will lose good performing employees as they grow weary of picking up the slack. And by the way, you are one of those people that are picking up the slack.

That is not to say a supervisor should not try to help employees improve performance. A good supervisor should be clear about job duties and expectations, offer guidance on how to succeed and provide resources and training for same. But good supervisors, when in assessing an employee’s performance and capacity to improve, conclude he/she is not and cannot or will not improve, must be willing to make the decision to terminate that employee. It is in the best interest of the low performing employee (it could be a wake-up call leading to success in his/her next job) and most certainly in the best interest of the high performing employees who are carrying the low performer. For more information on terminating low performing employees, how and why to do it, and the benefits of doing it, read chapter 8 in Being a Supervisor 1.0: A Handbook for the New, Aspiring, and Experienced Supervisor.

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