Telling someone they failed their probation: Any Tips?(15 Posts)
Over the coming week I will be terminating a colleague's employment (still on probation -HR are involved) as they have failed to meet the targets set, and following significant support over the previous months. I would appreciate if anyone could give me any insight on how best to manage it, and any tips re practicalities etc., to make it as smooth as possible for all involved.
Presumably HR have a process in place and will tell you what to do. Where I work, the manager is given a 'script' to follow to make sure they don't inadvertently lay the company open to any legal issues, and they have someone escort the person off the premises. A high priority ticket is put in and actioned straight away to remove access to company systems.
From the employee's point of view I imagine they'll want to know what pay they'll receive and what their reference will say.
I don't think this is ever easy, so be honest, clear and make it short is my advice
If they are leaving immediately, get everyone else out of the way while they clear their personal belongings, or already have them boxed ready to go
Think about the practicalities like company keys, mobile phone, laptop. If they have a company car arrange for someone to drive them home in it and return it to the company.
IT will need to know so they can remove email access etc
I find it easier to keep it factual and don't drag it out. Have a copy of their contract outlining the probation period and advise they will be paid a week in lieu but won't be required to work it. Let them know they will receive a letter outlining final salary etc
I'm assuming the employee has been made aware at interim reviews that they are falling short of the required standard, and hence the additional support? If so, this at least won't come as a complete shock to them.
Is there a reason why you want to go straight to the axe and not extending the probation to see if they can pull their socks up? I would guess they are woefully short of the mark and so a couple more months wouldn't help? I would assume they are likely to ask why they can't be extended so I don't think you can sugar coat this too much.
I wouldn't have any dealings with them alone, and you might want to offer them the choice of returning to their desk to say goodbye to colleagues or leaving discreetly, with possessions sent on later. Make sure the meeting room is somewhere where they won't have to walk past many people to get out (pref do it in another building although then it'll be obvious to him/her that something is afoot). HR may have a view on that which means they have to be escorted from the building at once.
The rest of the team will need to be told something after they've departed. I think I'd make clear the probation was failed, rather than anything like gross misconduct.
This is the worst bit of being a manager, short of someone dying. Many sympathies.
Thank for all your tips. Any more would be useful. Need to think about how to get other colleagues away from the office for the person to pick up their stuff etc. and ask HR if they have a script (HR will be present). Did not think of those. So thanks.
Re probation extension...this has already been given so the person is aware of issues. Still hard to do! I am not looking forward to doing it, particularly as I like the person, but they are not meeting the required standards.
Yep, virtually every time I've had to give negative feedback it's been to someone I personally like, very hard. Can someone maybe brief the staff whilst you're in the meeting so they can be herded away at the key moment?
I know your mind is made up but I can assure you you're doing the right thing, you would bitterly regret keeping this person on and hoping they will improve. A friend (with the approval of HR) kept someone on probation for over a year hoping for a miracle and it took her another year to go through the whole process of getting him fired (not sure why so long, perhaps I'm not remembering it correctly and somehow his probation had been confirmed despite piss poor performance). It was incredibly stressful.
My best advice is to 'rip the plaster off'. Too many managers spend what feels (to the employee) like aeons beating about the bush before delivering bad news. Just spit it out as quickly (and professionally) as possible.
I can totally understand the hoping for a miracle. I was there for a while... I so wished for something to change but it doesn't unfortunately
Definitely cut the crap and get to the point. Hopefully by this point, many direct and clear conversations have happened with the employee so it shouldn't be a surprise.
I do think it helps to be clear that this is not personal of the "we all hate you so you have to go variety", but is about not hitting performance targets. Make sure you have the facts and can state them in the meeting (and refuse to do the meeting until you have them if the facts need to come from other people).
I have done a number of these meetings and I think it is important to leave the other person their dignity. You mentioned that you like her, so after you have broken the news I'd say something to the effect that "I'm so sorry this has not worked out for you. I think you are a lovely person and I have enjoyed working with you, but this is just not the right role for you and I do think that we would not be doing either of us any favours by not facing up to that fact". Then go straight in to what you are offering by way of payment, reference etc as they will probably feel quite panicky about getting another job.
No-one likes doing this sort of meeting, but I have always taken the view that since it has to be done, you should do it as clearly and kindly as you can, whilst leaving no room for misunderstandings.
My spiel was
'I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but your probationary period has expired and we're not going to be able to offer you a permanent post. Whilst you were really good at xxx (usually contact lens ordering) we felt that you were lacking in your xxx (usually customer service skills).
(At this point they argue and you nod - you don't need to say anything)
The you say something along the lines of I wish you all the best.
I always used to do these at the end of the day when everyone else tends to be busy and they can go straight home.
It sounds from your last post like you're not expecting them to work their notice. Is that right? Because if so you'll need to set that out clearly and may need to have a box to hand to put their things in.
It's never easy but it shouldn't come as any surprise to them, if you've done what you say above.
I tend to get it out there straight away - 'The reason for our meeting today is to discuss your probationary period, which I regret to tell you, you have failed. This means that your employment is terminated with immediate effect and you will be leaving us today'.
I then go to the details as to why we've reached this decision and confirm they'll be paid in lieu of notice, will be written to etc. I usually offer some words of advice for them to take forward.
I always pre-warn IT beforehand and have them ready to kill their access when they have left their desk and are on their way to the meeting. I give them the option of gathering their own things or somebody going to collect them. Tip - if the other person goes to get their things, don't sit in the room with them. It's beyond awkward.
The worst probation failure I've ever seen was somebody who wanted to be seen as the good guy, even though they were sacking somebody and so gave really confusing messages to the employee - in the end I had to step in and spell it out because the poor girl couldn't work out what oh earth was happening. Awful awful awful. This person should have known much better, given what she did for a living...
Wanting to be seen as the good guy should be a sacking offence for all managers in my view! Give the hard message, give it as kindly (but clearly) as you can, and don't shirk it.
In fact I wonder why we don't get training on this - loads of recruitment training but none for the other end of the process. A lot of very poor hiring and appraisal decisions would be avoided if people understood the ramifications of these down the line, particularly the difficulties of getting rid of someone if they've been underperforming since day 1 but you didn't tackle it in their probation period or subsequently in the appraisals, or where they don't have an accurate job description. I know someone who only passed his probation because his manager (who was a contractor and not involved in recruiting him) thought he was two grades lower than he actually was.
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