Holding Out Too Long To Fire

Underperformance
Firing
Career Path
Feedback
Internal Communication
Managing Expectations

16 May, 2018

Edwin Chau talks about the first time he was faced with firing someone and the lessons he learned.

Problem

There are a lot of different reasons for someone to be fired - someone could have done something bad, or someone could just not be performing at the level expected of them. The time I was faced with firing someone, the situation was drawn out for around two years.

Actions taken

The engineer reported directly to me, and I knew for a long time that the engineer was not performing very well. I had a number of conversations with him to make sure he knew he wasn't performing to the standard I expected, and included feedback in one-on-one's, and his performance reviews. It should never be a surprise when your team member receives their performance review. We had worked together for so long that I found it difficult to fire him. We still needed engineers for our team and he was very comfortable doing the work that most people didn't want to do. However, at the same time, we knew he could be doing better and could be showing more initiative. I realized it had been drawn out for too long when his output started to affect other people on his team, and team morale, because when people were working with him they had to coach him along.

Lessons learned

Nothing worked to change his behavior, and ultimately I ended up firing him. Two years is far too long to put up with bad performance. At the time, I was trying to figure out the difference between barely meeting expectations and underperformance. He was barely meeting expectations for a long time, so I held out hope he would change and provided him with various incentives like switching teams, not adjusting compensation, and throwing more on his plate in an attempt to increase his drive.


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