What to Do When You Need to Fire Someone Who is Popular
6 December, 2017
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.
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.
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.
Sameer Kalburgi, VP of Engineering at Fieldwire, discusses how his team evolved from hiring junior engineers to building a team of -- and balancing -- mixed seniorities.
VP of Engineering at Fieldwire
Raghavendra Iyer, Head of Engineering at ReachStack, tells of his efforts to preserve the startup mentality of his team following the acquisition by a large company.
Head of Engineering at ReachStack
Matt Pillar, VP of Engineering at OneSignal, recalls how he helped merge two engineering teams at two different locations and how legal and cultural context made all the difference.
VP Engineering at OneSignal
Jackson Dowell, Engineering Manager at Asana, explains how he moved his project forward by coming up with a clear model of the system and problem that provided guidance to the team and helped communicate their efforts outward.
Engineering Manager at Asana
Toby Delamore, Product Manager at Xero, explains how skip-level conversations and maintaining an attentive relationship with engineers enabled him to keep a finger on the pulse of the team.
Product Manager at Xero
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.