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Submitted by aclonaris on


 Hi all,

I have a direct who approached me in March informing me that he wasn't happy and that he would be leaving by June. He is an average to low performer, so I am not focused on trying to keep him on.
Over the last few months he has been winding down in terms of work load and I can't assign him new projects knowing the the knowledge will leave with him, which he understands. 
My dilemma is that he is not actively searching for other jobs, he is just in cruise control. This is starting to wear thin on his colleagues and my patience. I have his performance appraisal coming up and was wondering how could I structure it so that he gets the message that it is almost June and he should be on his way?

mattpalmer's picture

You've done yourself, your team, and this direct a disservice by not addressing this right from the start.  As long as someone is working for you, they should consistently perform to a clearly communicated minimum level, and if they're not, they either need to be coached to improve, or fired.  That someone may be leaving (do you have a signed resignation letter with a date?  If not, you don't *know* they're leaving) is immaterial -- as you've noticed, people who aren't performing have a negative impact on the whole team.  It also isn't fair on the *company*, because the money you're pouring into this person for them to do very little could be spent on more productive pursuits.

As far as rescuing the problem now, I wouldn't wait until the performance appraisal.  I'd recommend having a frank conversation with this person ASAP, along the lines of "I'm sorry I've let this problem slip until now, but I've noticed your productivity has been slipping since you mentioned you were leaving.  As long as you're working here, I expect you to maintain a minimum level of performance, and if you can't maintain that level, you will be leaving here earlier than you'd planned."  Make sure you've got a clear, succinct, objective description of the level of performance you're expecting that you can deliver.

To make your life easier next time, make sure that you have this expectation-setting conversation straight away.  Then hold the person to it.  Also discuss what happens if you run out of work for the person to do -- if you can't assign them to new projects, and their job is entirely project-oriented, at some point you'll run out of work for them to do -- and hence there's no reason to continue employing them.  Be careful with the tone of the delivery, because done poorly it can come across as heartless, and may have the effect of stopping others from giving you a nice long notice period in the future.  However, it's important that you hold *everyone* to high standards, not just those that haven't yet told you they're leaving.

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

Matt's right.  If the person collects the paycheque then the company has every right to expect their best efforts.

I wouldn't have any problem asking for that resignation in writing right now.  The person made you a promise and you're just following up.   It shouldn't be a problem for them now that June's two weeks away and the person is/was serious, right?

If June slips by and there's no resignation, then you need to provide feedback about what it means for them when they lie to you.

And by all means get on top of this now.  You can't change the past but you can set some ground rules moving forward.






Doris_O's picture

Hopefully you are doing O3's with this individual each week. If not, set up a time to meet this week. Either way remind them that June is coming up in two weeks so you expect to receive their resignation letter by the end of the week. Brief them also on your (or your organization's) policy on recommendations, so that you can give them the best recommendation possible* if/when a potential employer calls you.  

I had a similar situation about a year ago. My direct told me she was very happy and was planning to leave, but wanted to hang around for an undefined period of time until I found someone else. We had been doing O3's for a number of months at that point. She did not like having to meet goals so "the job wasn't fun anymore". In reality, she was fairly disgruntled at that point, because I had become clearer in communicating the results she was expected to achieve.

I let her know that I appreciated her good intentions, but if someone was unhappy I expect them to give me their two weeks notice in a letter of resignation. Alternatively, if she wanted to continue in the job, we could schedule an appointment to discuss the why she was having a difficulty meeting her goals and deadlines. We would brainstorm possible ways she could accomplish her job and I'd "forget" that she mentioned resigning. I suggested she think about it overnight and discuss it with her family. Fortunately, the next morning she resigned. 

mattpalmer's picture

Doris, sounds like you handled it perfectly, and got the "right" result, as a bonus. 

DiogenesPerez's picture
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When I started working one piece of advise from my father gave me was to "Remember your paycheck is for Performance, not to show up" people (normally B or C) tend to forget this and expect a raise when new goals or responsibilities are set in place or have been there for a while. As I think was Doris's case.

Manager Tools serve to remember everyone; I know there's another wording in the podcast. And as Matt Palmer states "You've done yourself, your team, and this direct a disservice" I would include the Company in the list.



aclonaris's picture
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Thanks to all of you for your replies, it's great to hear your advice. Doris, thank you for sharing your similar experience and how you dealt with the situation, it gives me something to go on and action now before it affects anyone else in the team.

Thanks again!

Doris_O's picture

 You're welcome Alconaris. In my earlier post, I failed to mention how much I appreciated you sharing your situation. My response to my direct was somewhat instinctual -- all I could think was if she wasn't happy at that point, she would be miserable if hung around for a few more months. It seemed like the kindest thing to do, even if it did not appear as such. Some colleagues thought that I was being too severe. Your message was helpful to me, to exemplify the path I did not choose and affirm that I did the right thing at the time. 

I hope it all works out well for you and your direct.


P.S. In the post above "My direct told me she was very happy" should have been "My direct told me she was very UNhappy"


jrb3's picture
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You're responsible for his performance at this workplace, not what happens outside it.  The job search happens outside it.  Let it go: it's his (not your) choice what's next in his professional life after this.  Enforce the transition.  "Leave by June" means this past Friday would have been the "two-week notice" for leaving effective Saturday 1 June.

Next time, you might consider something I've used with some success.  Go ahead and assign the "outgoing" guy a project or two.  His role is to train his replacement on those projects, whom you assign at the same time to the same role.  The out-bounder (yay, I get to invent a word :-) gets to ease out gracefully, someone else gets to learn the role, and you're not left with a slow-mover drawing against your direct-labor budget.

-- Joseph

lar12's picture
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By chance, is the person leaving a member of the reserve forces of the military?  If so, be careful how you approach this subject.  You still have the responsibility to ensure the person meets performance objectives.  However, don't put yourself in a position where your actions could be construed as discriminating against a service member.  This situation is another reason why it's so important to have HR in your network.