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Terminations: Should an employee be surprised when fired for poor performance after given opportunit

I was asked if employees should be surprised when fired for poor performance and I was surprised to learn that many people are indeed surprised. That should never be the case. Everything step possible should be taken to insure the employee knows what is coming and if performance does not improve. I am a firm believer that employees should never be surprised they are being terminated for poor performance. Managers need to "manage" their employees and their behavior and work performance by taking specific steps that insures the employee succeeds or, there is documentation to backup and justify the termination. Here are the steps I would take when managing low performing employees...

Steps taken:

  1. Establish your expectations verbally and in writing.

  2. Have employee sign off that they are receiving your expectations.

  3. Train, train, and train again.

  4. Have employee sign off on all the steps in the training that they have been trained on as they are trained.

  5. When the employee makes a mistake, sit down with employee and verbally coach employee by reviewing the proper steps, review expectation and document (with date) that you had a verbal conversation to review the incident (first documentation).

  6. When employee makes another mistake, re-coach again and document conversation. Have employee sign off that they were re-trained. Give employee copy of signed documentation. Do this step three times.

  7. At third write-up, inform employee that continued errors will lead to suspension up to and including termination. Write this warning into the document that they sign.

  8. 5th mistake (4th official write-up) is a write up and one day suspension with a warning that continued mistakes will lead to 3 day suspension up to and including termination.

  9. 6th mistake (5th official write-up) is a write up and 3 day suspension with next mistake leading to termination.

  10. 7th mistake is termination.

No surprise here. How can there be after you've sat down with the employee 7 times? The fact is this, I tell those who are in jeopardy that I value them as a part of the team and that this needs to be taken seriously. I go on to explain that I want to see them succeed because as the coach, I succeed when they succeed and if they end up leaving, the rest of the team has to pick up what they were doing and I personally, lose valuable time reviewing resumes, interviewing interviewing interviewing, then training the new person. Even with experience, a new person will take 4-6 months minimum before they are up to speed but it is usually a year. Believe me, I WANT all my employees to succeed, even those I may not like personally. So I do every single thing possible to communicate to the low performing employee what the expectation is, that they are valued immensely, and to please step up to my expectations otherwise, they need to reconsider their role at the company and perhaps find something else that is more closely suited to their abilities and interests.

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