HR: The Helpful Tool That Managers Often Neglect

Soham Mehta

Founder at Interview Kickstart



What managers often forget to do is to take enough help from HR when they have to make difficult decisions. I made this mistake in my previous manager position at Box when I inherited an underperforming team of 4 members. One was a high performer, while the other three were not. After easily transitioning the high performer to another team, I continued on to deal with the following three, uniquely different, underperformers without consulting with HR. 

I began with one who was fairly hard-working, but who was not generating results. They were managing an outsourced team and had many problems that were affecting all of us who were dependent on that team to perform work. I decided to make the call to let this person know that this was not cool and we needed to make a change. In my natural approach, I was very direct with her and she took it very strongly, to the point where she ended up resigning. While we got the outcome we wanted, it was not the way we wanted it. That is when HR reached out to let me know that this situation was less than ideal. They suggested that the next time that I wanted somebody out, that I go to them and they could help figure out a way to transition them out. 

Actions taken

From then on, I did the whole thing by the book with the next two people, and throughout the rest of my career.  

  • For the first person, I started with HR and gave them all the data and evidence I needed to start the process. For the next performance evaluation, we asked them to go on a performance improvement plan, giving them an opportunity to improve with proper evidence and guidance. The issues with this particular person were more behavioral than before. At first, he was a bit hesitant before finally agreeing to go with the plan. Midway through, however, everyone involved knew that this was not actually going according to the improvement plan. From there, I had a meeting with this person, which included an HR representative, in order to let them go. 

  • The final person of the group was a bit more contentious, somewhat combative, and certainly less introspective than the others. When HR and I shed light on their issues around performance, they literally went to a lawyer and drafted a letter as if they had written it themselves. It was so well professionally written, that when I questioned who had written it, this person lied directly to my face. For this reason, the HR process shortened to a final warning instead of a performance improvement plan. HR had a gradation system in place for these types of situations. The final warning was linked to a certain date in which their performance needed to see improvement or we would otherwise exercise our right to terminate their employment. They soon resigned after that, but because of the letter that came about, I was often checking with our legal counsel to see if I was in the right to be making certain moves throughout the process. 

Lessons learned

The key learning for me is to always involve human resources when you are making these types of decisions. By using them as a tool, the whole process became quite systematic and much less stressful on me and much less risky to the company. 

Before this, I had never really valued the type of personal response someone had given me when I was being too direct with them. I was always very company-first driven. I have since learned that being overly direct can be very sensitive for some people. Even if you are taking the team over and trying to do what is best for the company, you may not know exactly what they have done in the past. You have to presume that they have done something right to even be put in their position in the first place. It is, therefore, extremely important to put that into perspective before delivering any messages. You always have to look out for the company’s interest first, but that doesn’t mean to make employees feel otherwise. A balance between the two needs to be found.

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Soham Mehta

Founder at Interview Kickstart

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