Deteriorating performance makes firing inevitable; now what?

| Tom Bengtson | July 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

Firing someone from their job is unpleasant. Managers hate doing it and employees hate losing their job. But it happens, and our faith can be a guide for both manager and employee.

First, consider the manager’s perspective.

If employee performance devolves to the point were termination is inevitable, the employer has to work hard to balance two principles: justice and mercy.

Justice to the other people who depend on the company — employees, customers, shareholders and benefactors — requires that a non-performing employee improve performance, move someplace where the requirements of the work match their performance or — barring success on those two fronts — leave the company. A manager has to be the one moving this process forward.

Mercy, however, requires that an employer manage an underperforming employee with dignity. The employer might ask himself, “If I were having trouble, what would I want?”

Managers can use the answer to that question as a guide. This typically means helping the employee to succeed at the first sign of a performance issue, communicating clearly about consequences if performance fails to improve, privacy and discretion if termination is actually executed, and some level of follow up to help the employee find work elsewhere.

Always painful

From the employee’s perspective, job loss almost always hurts, and firings typically hurt more than layoffs.

A fired employee is likely to experience a series of emotions, starting possibly with disbelief and moving to anger, sadness and finally acceptance. But it could take weeks or months to work through all this.

The duration of the process will be proportional to the extent the employer successfully balanced the principles of justice and mercy. It is much easier to accept a firing that is just and merciful than it is to accept one that seems random and harsh.

Since the beginning of time, people have wondered why bad things happen to good people; if you are fired, don’t let this question be an impediment to your faith. Any forcible and unpleasant change is an opportunity for a person to reflect on the past, consider the factors that led to the change and make plans for a new path in the future.

As you ponder your situation, remember that putting the fire out and rebuilding the home are two separate projects. In other words, initially you might have to take any job you can get to pay the bills, but longer term you want to find a work situation that best matches your interests and gifts.

God first

Whether you are a rank-and-file employee or a manager, work is ultimately a gift that gives those of us in the labor pool the opportunity to co-provide with God for family and self.

God invites us into this work to help us develop a relationship with him. In our careers, it is easy to focus on job descriptions, promotion tracks, compensation and profits. But, if we focus first on our relationship with God, the rest usually falls into place.

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Category: Faith and the Workplace