Toggling From Stop It to You're Fired

Julie Shenkman
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Performance management is a key part of any organization, yet many managers do not appropriately manage employees. At some point, there has to be a change from "stop it" to "you're fired." But at what point is this appropriate?

To create good employees, you have to train them, and managing their performance means noting where they fall short and instigating policies or training procedures in order to bring them up to speed. In some cases, this means asking the employee to stop it — whatever "it" is. However, should an employee fail to improve, you have two options: manage the person out of the business or transfer him to a position that's a better match for his skills and personality.

Similarly, if two employees are having a spat, you should initially ask them to stop it. In addition, you need to make it clear what the next step is if they do not improve their relationship to ensure the parties actively work toward developing a better relationship. The two individuals do not have to like each other, but they must learn to work together and deal with each other in a professional manner.

Unfortunately, many managers do not say "stop it" at the right time or document incidents appropriately, and this can lead to HR problems. Before managers decide to fire someone, it's best for them to have a good paper trail that notes various problems with the employee — particularly in states that are have at-will employment.

The human resources department should have copies of all noted incidents, and each incident report should contain details of conversations the manager had with the employee about each specific issue. In addition, the documentation must include a clear management plan with actionable goals the employee must meet within a specific time period.

For example, if the employee is unduly negative, you might ask the employee to stop it in a verbal conversation. If that employee continues being negative and it affects other colleagues, discuss the issue with the employee, and make detailed notes of the conversations you previously had with that employee about the same issue. In addition, clearly state and note the consequences of not stopping the behavior, and submit copies of all your documentation to human resources.

In a similar vein, a pair of employees who argue constantly may just need to hear a firm "stop it" from one of their superiors. Again, if one or both parties refuse to improve, using the aforementioned disciplinary process to create a paper trail that eventually leads you to a firing decision.

Sometimes, all that's required is a quiet word and a firm "stop it" to change a worker's behavior. However, if that person refuses to improve, you need to performance manage that person out of the business, eventually saying "you're fired."

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