• Aryeh Brickner

Learn from Darth Vader: Decide and implement! (But no choking employees)

In “The Empire Strikes Back” Darth Vader shows that when it comes to personnel shifts, you need to be decisive and implement changes without hesitation.

As I wrote previously, once you’ve identified an under-performing employee, be sure to first have an informal chat with them. Once you done that, and still don’t see a discernible change, you can make mention of it during a weekly meeting just to clarify with them that they understood you. But what comes next?

One of my previous CEO’s, longtime friend, and mentor, Matti Zinder, is fond of quoting the famous “Duck Test” when it comes to employees. “If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck”! If you’ve taken the right steps and still don’t see a long-term fit, chances are there isn’t. This is the exact point where a lot of junior managers start to waffle. A key step in dismissing employees is having the self-confidence to not only make the mental decision, but also to implement the it, and carry out the firing. All too often, managers prefer to allow poor performers to traipse along, rather than go through with firing them.

There are a few reasons managers hesitate to let someone go:

1. It’s uncomfortable. Yes, some managers would rather let a poor performer stay on the team rather than have to deal with firing them. They often don’t realize the negative impact this person is having on the rest of the team.

2. You feel bad for this person. Even if it’s the right decision and probably the best thing, you still feel bad about the potential impact on their lives. Subsequently, you keep delaying implementing your decision.

3. Some managers are just lazy. Firing someone often requires a lot of work and effort. To let someone go they need to review everything with their own direct manager, HR, document all activities, have a trial period, talk with the employee and then hire someone else. Too much work!

4. It can upset the status quo in your team. Another ramification which managers worry about is the impact on their team, so they prefer not to rock the boat. So what if this person isn’t up to par, as long as their team is doing well overall they prefer to maintain the status quo.

5. It feels like a personal failure. When a manager fires someone it can reflect poorly on them. Did they recruit the wrong person? Are they managing properly? Did they provide enough guidance to this employee? Firing someone is often a public way of saying, “I made a mistake”.

Part of being a manager, a leader, and a Sith Lord, is having the ability to make tough and sometimes uncomfortable decisions. Have the self-confidence to know you are doing the right thing. On the flipside there can be an instantaneous positive impact on your team stemming from your display of leadership and maturity. This doesn’t mean one has to be trigger happy, which leads me to the next point, the infamous “trial period”.

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