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Reality IT: No Profit in a Fast Employee Axe

Trusted Counsel

I called Kathleen Van Peeples, our HR manager and a trusted resource. "Kathleen," I said, "sorry to call you so late, but Steve Fox wants me to fire David Lightman, and I need your input." Kathleen chuckled--she knows Steve can be tough to deal with.

I explained the situation. Kathleen agreed that we could not fire someone in David's situation unless we had formally counseled the employee and put him on a documented improvement plan. We had talked with David before this incident, but we hadn't put anything in writing. Some employment experts say all counseling should be documented, but I believe written documents can make the first correction too formal and threatening. Kathleen also offered to help calm Steve down in the morning.

David had great respect for his boss, network manager Dirk Packet, so I gave Dirk a quick update by phone, and first thing the next morning, Dirk and I met with David. We weren't surprised to hear that David didn't realize his work was found lacking. David was receptive to the counseling, and Dirk worked out a plan of corrective action. We stressed to David that he was an important member of our team--our helpdesk provides key support services to both onsite and remote employees and we didn't want to discourage him--but we made clear that the shortcomings in his work had to be addressed.

We also discussed David's potential professional growth with him. Sometimes staffers in entry-level positions, such as those on the helpdesk, feel there's no payoff for a job well done. But at ACME, we offfer advancement opportunities within the IT department, and many of our senior-level IT staffers have come up through the ranks. We invest significant time and money to train our people, so it's in our best interest to keep our people satisfied.

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