Is it Time for an Employee to Go?

I am currently a Manager in IT Operations and my team is responsible for end-user support, we are the single point of contact to IT for service disruptions and other requests. I have a difficult employee and I'm wondering if it is time for him to go to improve the team overall.

This individual consistenly scores high on our objective measures (i.e. Average resolution time, customer survey scores, time tracking, etc.), however his behaviors are poor. During team meetings if he disagree's with something it just says "This is stupid". I require that all team members follow a specific procedure when we have Major Issues. This tech does not believe its effecient and simply does not do it, this is one of example of many.

Some things I've done wrong. The majority time I've only provide feedback in quarterly reviews and some during 1-on-1's. I've tried to provide regular positive or negative feedback in the past, but the employee gets very defensive on even the lightest piece of negative feedback. When I give positive feedback, the person seems completey unimpacted by this. I'll see where the person begins doing better in an area (i.e. taking good notes) so I will give positive feedback to encourage. Then a week later I see that he has returned to the previous behavior, and from there its a ping pong match. This has made me more tenative in giving feedback because of the defensive behavior.

The tech complains to the team a great deal about the company and about procedures I've implemented, these are not brought up to me, just complaining to the team. Other teams do not see this person as easy to work with. 

I've also tried giving this person increased responsibility to further challenge him. He completes these tasks on time, but only precisely what I've assigned. There is no initiative taken to overcome hurdles or "think outside the box".

Overall, I feel like I've failed the employee because I have not given regular feedback using the feedback model. I've been managing the person for two years and we are at a pivotal point of change. I do not see the person jumping on board with the change, and that combined with attitude, I'm wondering if it is time to let the person go? The other part is, if so, how to go about?

pucciot's picture
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 Here are my Podcast Suggestions :

 Heart of Feedback (making sure you are approaching Feedback correctly)


There is no "Why" in Feedback  - (stopping the ping-pong match)


Coaching - stop interuppting -


AND there is another one that addresses the "that's stupid" kind of things.

I'll write again if I think of it.


Good Luck



tlhausmann's picture
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] employee gets very defensive on even the lightest piece of negative feedback

Hmmm. There are additional feedback casts that may apply:


MichaelP's picture

I may possibly have been in your direct's shoes a few times in the past. It could be that he is too technical for front line support and is heading for burnout because of the frustration. He may actually already have crossed the burnout line.

Playing devil's advocate here... but if he consistently scores high on average resolution time and customer surveys by NOT following the specific procedures, it may mean that the procedures aren't optimal. After all, he is faster than the average of the rest of the team who are following the procedure.

Way back when I was working in front line support, the standard procedure when a user couldn't log in to Netware was to first have them perform a chkdsk, reboot their PC while keeping them on the phone then send a tech if that didn't fix it. The users knew that the chkdsk added no value whatsoever to the resolution of the problem, and the team had a reputation of being absolutely useless. Six weeks in, based on the analysis of the incidents I had handled so far, I cut down the resolution time for those incidents (from >1 hour, with long waits, to <5 minutes fixed on the phone) by going straight to the root causes of connection issues. I initially got in hot water for improving resolution time and customer satisfaction... this has been a recurring pattern in my career.

Did you involve the team in the procedure/process improvement? I have done that in the current position (OPS, infra and engineering) and it is working wonders. I have gamified Continuous Improvement and we now have regular optimization competitions. For processes/procedures, the output of the competition is a Standard Operating Procedure with an average completion time. The SOP will then be used by everybody until it is improved again in a competition. The maximum completion time (with some pre-determined float) then gets updated in the service catalog. Once a process is sufficiently optimized and "poka-yoke", we delegate it to the operators. The operators may further delegate it to front-line support. If the procedure doesn't require escalated privileges, front-line support then delegates it further to the "self service" knowledge base.

Otherwise, have a candid talk with him, some coaching leading to a realistic performance improvement plan.

leanne's picture
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Another thing to think about is the employee's DISC profile. High C? High D? Both? And what feedback are you giving, and is it tailored to his style?

For instance, feedback with an impact of 'people think you're hard to work with' is going to bounce right off someone with a high D component and to some extent a high C as well. The mental reaction (and sometimes outwards too) is 'so what? I get things done, if they think I'm hard to work with that's their problem'.

I too would analyze *what* the person is doing in order to get those better-than-average scores, and whether that has any merit to it. A lot of times in my life, I've been told I couldn't do X because it wasn't in the procedure...but X cut down the time to complete the task tremendously and made our customers happy, *and* usually didn't hurt relationships with other parts of the team or even enhanced them. (That's key - my behavior with the other teams was usually collaborative. When you mess that up, X becomes Very Bad.) Why wasn't X in the procedure? Usually because my boss wasn't willing to change a procedure that was outdated. When I asked why not, their reaction was much more 'I have no control over that' or 'I don't want to' than it was 'X is bad because <something I hadn't considered>'. (I, um, also expressed my opinion of the procedure a bit more forcefully than perhaps was wise.)

And finally, going way back in podcasts, here's the ones I would recommend listening to: (using DISC)

Basically... If you're only giving feedback quarterly and otherwise intermittently, that's not enough. And I would give feedback about the defensive reaction to feedback, as circular as that feels, and ask in an O3 why they do react that way. (Just don't say 'when you get defensive when I give you negative feedback' - address behavior, always, and defensive isn't a behavior.) Focus in that discussion on the benefits of change - not 'I don't feel like I have to fire you' but 'you can get this and this done more easily', etc.

VPfreedude's picture

are you have written the case for the person to go.   I am not a believer in letting good/great performance in tasks over shadow tearing down the team from your post it seems like the tech is doing.

The tech routinely does not respond to feedback

Routinely does not follow the "rules" so to speak or the expected action plan implemented by you or the company

Gossips/complains with other staff 

Openly questions your process/competency in meetings by saying things like "this is stupid"

Having seen what toxic employees can do to the morale of the staff and what kind of impact they often have on the other, good performers I don't tend to put up with this behavior for long. 

I would sit the offending person down and give them the shot over the bow talk.  Change x,y,z behaviors immediately or your employment will be terminated.  No second (third, etc) chances.

Next if they step out of line on the behavior side again, without significant improvement because everyone has setbacks, fire them.

It may straighten out their attitude but it will most certainly improve the vibe around the office with someone like that removed from the team.

Best of luck!