Manage Them Out the Door
By Wally Adamchik
Jan 3, 2009 - 11:12:41 AM

You are reading this because you’re in a position of leadership. You may have some people working for you who are not quite cutting it. So, you have three options: live with them, get rid them, or help them. Said differently, you can surrender and do nothing, you can “manage” them out the door, or you can lead them to success. Let’s look at each choice more closely.

1) Live with them; do nothing – The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, or so the cliché goes. Let’s face it; the truth is that it’s easier to let this situation continue than to “do something about it.” If you fire them, you’ll need to replace them. Maybe they aren’t all that bad. And, if you talk with them about their performance, they might get angry, defensive, or emotional, and who wants to deal with that?
But the reality is that, when you allow a marginal performer to stay, you send the message to all your employees that this level of performance is acceptable. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your employees haven’t noticed someone who habitually operates at a sub-standard level. They have, and they’re waiting for you to demonstrate that you are committed to upholding those standards. Ultimately, your credibility is at stake. So, while it would be easier to look the other way, if you do, you abdicate your authority as a leader.

2) Manage them out the door – You’ve told the employee that they need to shape up. They haven’t. You’ve had enough. You decide they have to go. So, you write them up a few times. You can always “find” reasons: a few minutes late coming in one day… not filling out the proper paperwork… failure to put out a traffic cone when parking the company vehicle. You get the idea.
Of course, these are pretty minor offenses and are often overlooked. But, now that you’ve reached your limit, you start enforcing these policies to the letter. If you play your cards right, you can make life so difficult for the employee that they might leave on their own. While that may sound like a great idea, it can be considered constructive discharge--which you don’t want. According to Black's Law Dictionary, constructive discharge is “a termination of employment brought about by making the employee's working conditions so intolerable that the employee feels compelled to leave." It’s illegal and can end up involving you and the company in a lawsuit.

3) Help them; lead them to success – Leadership is about creating and sustaining in someone the belief that they can do something until they can believe it for themselves. It’s about creating an environment where people want to do their best, where you help them perform at their highest level. This may not be the easiest path to take, but it can certainly be the most rewarding--for you and the employee. The return on your investment is very high. You don’t turn over the employee with the corresponding costs. You gain a more loyal and proficient employee who knows you want them to succeed. Finally, you send a message to others that your workplace is one that believes in helping people.

Every employee has different needs and expectations, and will present unique challenges. I don’t want to oversimplify, but the three options above are pretty universal. You can do nothing, you can manage them out the door, or you can lead them to success.

Wally Adamchik is the President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting, a national leadership consulting firm based in Raleigh, NC. You can visit the website at or email him at [email protected]. He is the author of No Yelling (

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