A good boss lets bad eggs go

A good boss lets bad eggs go

You show consistency as a boss and respect for your top employees when you terminate someone who needs to go.
Jan 01, 2008

Mark Opperman, CVPM
Have you ever terminated, fired, liberated, or let someone go after laboring over the decision for days and losing several nights' sleep, only to realize you should've done it much, much sooner? If so, you're not alone. Consider the case of Bertha.

Bertha was a bad egg, a receptionist who yelled at clients, other team members, and even the practice owner. But when the practice was sold, Bertha stayed. The new owner brought me in to conduct an on-site operational audit. His No. 1 short-term goal was "Get rid of Bertha." At first I thought it was a joke, but I learned he was serious. This new owner was afraid to fire Bertha because she had been with the practice "forever."

"Everyone knows Bertha," the practice owner said. "If I fire her, some of the clients might leave. I can't."

Day one of my audit was interesting. Bertha was mean. She ignored me and proceeded to spend the day yelling at everyone. She even yelled at me for watching her as she yelled. I spoke to the practice owner that evening, and we put a plan into effect to fire Bertha. So the first time she acted out, we gave her a verbal warning, which was followed by a written warning, and then termination. All three actions occurred in the span of two days.

The day after Bertha was fired, a client asked where she was. The remaining receptionist said, "She's no longer with our practice."

"Really?" the client replied, with great relief. "I'm so glad. I used to hate coming in and having to deal with her. She was so mean."

That sentiment was repeated over and over in the months to come. The practice didn't lose clients; instead, many returned when they found out that the insulting Bertha had been given the boot.

Why do we put up with poor performance, undermine our own leadership skills, and watch team morale drop? Most bosses can give lots of reasons for holding on to bad eggs. At the top of the list is that they don't want to hurt anyone—after all, they're nice people. But if you're one of these "nice" bosses, the truth is, you're harming your practice. This is what you need to realize: You're not a bad person if you fire a team member who needs to go; you're a good boss.

Another reason you may be waiting to fire is that you don't know how to do it or are afraid of legal issues. So let's review the ABCs of termination and eliminate at least that excuse. You may find that terminating a poorly performing employee is the nicest thing you do for your team all year.