Julie Bauke, leading human resources consultant and career coach, tackles the tough topic of letting someone go. With her signature candidness, Julie challenges leaders to step up and lead the process. Her advice includes proactively collaborating with human resources; addressing the person’s specific skills and work behaviors, and leading these difficult conversations in a way that people allows people to leave with their reputation and dignity intact.
Sometimes as a leader, despite your best efforts, despite maybe even feeling like what's bending over backwards, it's time to part ways with someone. Gone are the days when anybody stays some place for 30-plus years. And so there will come a time when a person on your team has gotten to the end of their road with the organization. It doesn't mean that they're a bad person, and it doesn't mean you failed as a leader. It just means that it's time for them to find something else to do. It's not a failure necessarily; it's just time to part ways. The hard part is it really takes a lot of courage to step up and have that conversation with someone and to get everybody on the same page, and to make that exit as smooth as possible. And so, therefore, because it does require a lot of courage and bravery, a lot of us avoid it. And we hope that they'll just get the hint and leave. But you as a leader need to take the bull by the horns there and have those tough conversations so that people can leave with their reputation and their dignity intact. And you can be seen as someone who actually led that process instead of waiting for it to take care of itself. It's very difficult, and a lot of times I see this a lot, where managers know that someone is not a fit. Either they don't have the skills, maybe their communication skills aren't good, their professional skills aren't where they need to be, their knowledge isn't what it needs to be. Maybe their work style, maybe what they do is fine, but how they do it is what's really causing problems. You have to get a hold of that and address it. That is your responsibility, and dancing around it, again, and thinking that no one notices, you just seem to be giving this person a pass, is another big mistake leaders make, because everyone sees that this person over here seems to get away with an awful lot, and I'm not talking about doing their job. And that they really shouldn't be there anymore. But actually having the courage, being brave enough to step up and say, "Let's figure a way to help you get onto what you want to do so that we can all be more productive." You need to work with human resources, of course. I wouldn't suggest taking this out on your own. But it is important to really face it down instead of hoping it gets better. You can't just put it under your pillow and hope you wake up the next morning, and it's all better. This is where that courage and bravery of being a leader really comes in.