Why You Should Give Underperformers Time to Find a New Job

By Harvard Business Review
September 25, 2018

There are five good reasons — key payoffs — managers and their companies should avoid blindsiding an employee.

Every manager knows the termination playbook: Be direct, keep it short, walk the employee out the door, shut down access to email and so on.

In a new approach, what could be called “transparent separation,” you don’t blindside an underperforming employee or fire him outright.

Instead, you encourage the employee to leave on his own by informing him that he is going to be let go in time and needs to start looking for a new job.

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There are five key payoffs for managers and their firms when they give an underperforming employee time to find new work:

Improved relationships: It might be hard to believe, but relationships with employees who have gone through transparent separations often strengthen.

Enhanced reputation: With transparent separations, managers aren’t cast in an adversarial role; departing employees talk about the new job they’re leaving for rather than about being blindsided by a surprise termination.

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Smoother transitions: Separations that give an employee time to find a new role also give managers time to hire a good replacement.

Reduced legal risk: Many terminations risk litigation, and a manager’s responsibility is to minimize this. If an employee has the time and support needed to find a new job and does, the threat of a lawsuit plummets.

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New customers and clients: Any terminated employee can become a client, but they’re more likely to do that if their departure was positive and handled humanely. Conversely, an angry terminated employee may seek to undermine you from their new position, taking clients with them, for instance. 

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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