Managers waste precious time and energy anguishing over employees who don’t fit. Many managers will do almost anything to avoid the challenges and confrontation of making a change. As a result, their teams suffer.

Vickie faced this issue with her ten-person team. A lead manager just didn’t fit. He was abrupt and blamed the employees reporting to him for many mistakes, even his own. Unfortunately, Vickie didn’t rid her team of this misfit. Vickie’s boss and the organization’s human resources department said Vickie didn’t have a solid enough case to dismiss the manager. Therefore, Vickie tried shifting assignments and teamwork training instead. It wasn’t long, however, before the out of place employee soured the whole team, and three key employees quit for other jobs.

Here’s a constructive alternative to the dilemma of avoiding confrontation or struggling through the painful process of firing someone. I call it the “no-fault separation.”

Be honest with yourself about the fit.

Before you launch a teambuilding effort, ask yourself, “If I could change one person on the team, would we still have this problem?” Some well-intentioned teambuilding efforts founder because the issues aren’t about the team. They are about one person. Don’t take everyone’s time trying to solve a problem with one person.

Check out key opportunities to salvage the situation.

If the problem is with one person, there are several things for a manager to check before taking action. Have you been clear with the employee about the job responsibilities? Sometimes, better delegation or clearer communication will resolve the problem.

Have you assessed the employee’s management style and how it fits with the job? Easy to use profile reports can help employees see aspects of their style that undermine their effectiveness. Such reports highlight typical rub points with other people and better ways to work. An accurate mirror and some coaching can help people discover where and how to change.

Don’t bet against yourself.

If it’s a problem with one person and you can’t salvage the situation, don’t make your organization suffer one minute longer. Putting the employee on a performance improvement program or taking the whole team through teambuilding exercises delays the inevitable. Why bet against your own judgment that the person doesn’t fit?

Implement a “no-fault” separation.

Many efforts to remove employees bog down because they become faultfinding exercises. You can avoid that painful and humiliating process. Instead, highlight the person’s strengths. Note other jobs where you think his or her expertise, experience, and style would fit. Indicate how those differ from the immediate job situation. Finally, offer to help the person find a better fit elsewhere.

If you address the issue of fit in a way that doesn’t make the employee wrong or lose self-esteem, you will solve your organization’s problem more quickly. While the legalistic approach is to find fault and document failure, it takes time and diverts the team’s attention. If necessary, you can go that route. However, consider the “no-fault” solution first.

Assess your organization and the people within it. Bet on your best instincts rather than against them. Take constructive action to make necessary changes. Both you and your organization will benefit. Even the departing employee will ultimately benefit from finding a more suitable job.


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