If you have been practicing personal management, you know your direct reports on a personal level. You have a good sense of their strengths, their interpersonal style, their values and priorities. You even have some idea about what’s going on in the rest of their lives – the larger context of their work performances.
Thus, when there is a downward performance trend, you’re in a good position to assess, collaboratively, whether this person needs help (resources, counseling, encouragement, motivation) or if s/he is (no longer) in the right job. Often, he is not even in the right profession.
Instead of firing this person (adversarial and often too much trouble) or waiting to cull him in the next lay-off (disingenuous), put the effort into convincing him to quit. “Guided quitting” is positive for both parties. How do you execute it?
- Maintain an attitude of total positive regard. The problem is with fit and both parties are losing. However, the employer has survived less-than-optimal employees in the past, so this is really all about what’s best for the employee.
- Do the help versus placement discernment in collaboration with the employee. Work until he agrees that the issue is placement. He’s in the wrong job for his strengths and/or his desire.
- Emphasize authenticity in the employee’s career. “Do what you like and like what you do.” Moreover, “play to your strengths; nobody else has quite the same set.” Also, authenticity is the argument against simply compensation-driven job calculations.
- Highlight opportunity cost. While he stays here, his better placements are left undone, unattended, unfulfilled.
Sure, there will be many/most that you will not convince, but they will have an alternative storyline for their dismissal that they cannot easily discard. It may just change their lives later on.