How we manage people out of a team or organisations is not always done well. In my experience, most are done poorly.
After 25 years of working on culture and strategic planning I tend to see a lot of ‘involuntary’ exits. That is, where people are managed out of the business due to performance or behaviours. I have observed a couple of furphies that leaders and organisations tell themselves during this process.
The 1st furphy – It won’t be a good experience.
The 2nd furphy – It’s about following a process.
These are simply not true. It can be a good experience for both the employee and the employer. If we solely focus on process then we miss the important factor – the person. And it can be a good experience to the point were the person who is leaving thanks you for the learning. Yes really.
What if we made the decision to handle the exit of people with as much style and energy as their entry? Think about it. What if we engaged with them at the end as well as we did at the start? Crazy right?! Well … not really.
I propose that exiting with elegance is as important as recruiting with respect. To be honest, sometimes we don’t even get the recruiting piece right. But let’s save that piece, for another day.
I’ve seen first hand people leave a business with grace and dignity. And it was the leaders and organisations that made it so. I was at the Zappos HQ in Vegas a couple of years back and went to their #culturecamp. I have been really WOWed and inspired by the way they manage their people out of the business. Zappos take the attitude that, whether people come in or out of their business, they should be treated with the same respect, fun and WOW.
They have a whole program, called ‘The Hero’s Journey’, that is dedicated to managing people across or out of their business. This is done in a way that builds trust and respect, it doesn’t damage it. As well, after 5 weeks of ‘New Hire Training’, they give people ‘the offer’. That is, they will give them a month of salary to leave if the cultural fit does not feel right. Now that’s respectful and some would say too generous. But is it? They only have one of the best reputations in the world for WOWing people. It’s that kind of stuff that gets them there.
When I worked as the ‘Manager of People Stuff’ for The Nous Group I was privy to many conversations where our MD had ‘the conversation’ with people. The conversation was about not being the right fit (for whatever reason). It was done with compassion, with authenticity and they were treated with dignity and respect. It was not unusual for them to thank him for the conversation and the experience. We would often have drinks and thank them for their time and celebrate the person as they left.
There were very few formal performance processes during that time. Most people took responsibility for the fit not being right, since it was done in a humane way, not a process driven manner.
It’s crazy to think that conversations, done well, can make a big difference hey?! She says tongue in cheek.
If you are looking for a cheat sheet for how to exit people with elegance. I reckon it looks a little like this;
1. ‘Hire slow and fire fast’.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos says this. If we focus on making the right hires, then it becomes a preventive measure. But if this fit is not right, then have the conversations and make the decision early. It’s easier for everyone.
2. Don’t be legal, be human.
If you google the best way to fire someone, it’s all about the process. OMG people! Really? We are talking about people here. Let’s treat them with humanity and dignity. Have open, clear and respectful conversations. If you focus on the process, then it’s no wonder the other person does the same in return.
3. Performance manage with good intent.
If your purpose in putting people on a formal performance management strategy is purely to exit them, they will smell it. If they smell it, they will go into protection mode. Then things get ugly or just plain hard work. Who says they will never change? If you believe they might be able to turn things around, then the process takes on a very different flavour.
4. Exit people the way they enter.
The same values you apply at entry, you can apply at exit. Be transparent, be respectful, explain the detail, show them compassion and treat them as a person. Not an entity that didn’t give you what you wanted. After all, you made the decision to hire them, or the business did. So own your piece of the situation. That’s what leaders do.
5. Act with integrity.
Ask yourself. How would you like to be treated if you found yourself in a job or company that did not suit? Even if their behaviours or work ethic is poor, treat them like you would like to be treated. It just makes sense and is totally fair.
For those of you who are saying, ‘Georgia, it’s all well and good but you have no idea how hard it is to manage people out’. Yep I do. I’ve done it more times than I’d like to. I’ve also worked for an employment law firm and seen the best and worst of exits.
The bottom line is. Treat people with respect. Not because they deserve it. But because it’s the right thing to do.