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What to Do When You Need to Fire Someone Who is Popular

Team reaction
Firing
One-on-one
Toxic employee
Company Culture
Internal Communication

6 December, 2017

Brett is forced to decide whether to fire one of his employees due to him not performing. However, he knows that this will probably result in another tech-lead, who is very productive and who contributes well to the team, also resigning.

Problem

About a year ago, I encountered a problem with one of my employees, Sam. I liked him as a person, but over time I realized that him being there created a bad environment for other staff members, his team had a very high turnover, and he was not performing. However, some people in the company thought very highly of Sam, though their judgment was based more on his personality than on his work. The thing that concerned me the most was that Sam was very close to another tech lead, Bill, who was very productive and provided great contributions to the team. There was an undeniable risk that if Sam was fired Bill wouldn't stay long.

Actions taken

I had to take all my emotions out of my decision and think very rationally about whether the team would perform better with both of them or neither of them. I ultimately decided that Sam's impact was negative, not just "zero," and a negative impact reduces everyone else's positive impact, so I had to let him go. Just after Sam left I had my regular one-on-one with Bill and told him, as reasonably as I could, the reason why I had decided to let his friend go. I also reassured him of the fact that I wouldn't disparage Sam. However, unsurprisingly, Bill left the company a month later.

Lessons learned

Looking back, I think that I made the right decision. Being a business, you have to consider the performance of the person and not just to get along well with them. As a manager, you have to think rationally and sometimes remove your emotions from your decisions. Overall, I didn't get into trouble with anyone concerning this decision, except for Bill. Even though Sam's departure was a loss, thanks to him leaving, the atmosphere in the team improved, and no employees left the team in the following year.


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