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Stop Flogging the Dead Horse - When to Fire Somebody

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

When to fire somebody? Sometimes it is pretty straightforward sometimes, it is not.

Based on my experience, the best way to make that decision is to train & show the person that the job can be done in a certain way or within a specific period of time and if the person cannot replicate that, it is a reasonably good reason to end employment.

Once, an L&D colleague of mine and I were called to help a restaurant manager who couldn't manage the operation. Staff had no breaks, no training, the schedule changed daily, no day-offs, holiday or public holidays cleared etc...

My colleague had F&B background, so we concluded that the best way to train him was to show him how it is done. She run the restaurant for two weeks, and he was only allowed to shadow her. She coached him in operation, I coached him outside of it. We put policies and practices in place, made a plan to clear all outstanding payroll liabilities, and showed him every day how he can manage training, breaks, and everything else. The staff were pleased.

After two weeks we handed back the operation to the restaurant manager and coached daily through small chats. Within three weeks the restaurant was back to square one and us trainers were blamed of course. The restaurant manager came up with all sorts of excuses why he couldn't do it. Was he fired? No!

Why? "He is good with guests".

Us: "Great then make him a guest relation agent or a waiter but not a manager who is responsible for 50 staff on his team."

This is when you fire a person. The job can be done easily but the person is incompetent to do it. If one needed to be trained to that degree for a job (s)he occupies, then that person clearly is in the wrong role.

People quickly end up in jobs that they are not competent to do, and that is ok. Happens. But we cannot waste money on training the wrong people for any role they will never be really good at.

Look for people who are naturally good for the role and perfect/fine-tune that innate level of mastery. That is where excellence lies not in making bad performers to not bad performers by investing an awful lot of energy and company resources in them. This must always be considered when deciding on who should we train or develop.

I say it many times: I wouldn't invest a penny in his/her development that is just a waste of resources.

PS: Most things are not trainable! Keep that in mind and stop flogging the dead horse.

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