Five Steps Great Managers Take Before Letting Someone Go

Can you fix a broken employee?

OK…you have a great organization, but there is that one employee that just can’t seem to fit in with the team, they are always bucking the system, resisting your leadership, going rogue, missing deadlines, causing you more work.  The list of reasons to get rid of them goes on and on, so you ask yourself, at what point do I have enough to let them go?  But should you really be asking yourself, at what point have I done enough to help this person succeed?  Great Managers see through the bad stuff and refocus their management tactics to get the best out of people, no matter how difficult the situation.  Here are five steps Great Managers take before letting someone go.

Step One:  Take your ego out of the equation and focus on the employee.

When you are in a position of power it is hard to step back and let someone that is disrespecting you take the lead.  But if you are going to help them, that is exactly what you need to do.

Step Two:  Have them define their impression of the job, good and bad aspects.

Visit them on their turf.  Let them know that you think they may not be happy with the job, the relationship with the team or with you, and you want to fix it.  Get them to define what they really think about the job, what they like and what they don’t like about it…ask probing questions to get them to comment on specifics.


Step Three:  Ask them how they would like to manage their job, what they would like to accomplish and the support they need from you to make it happen.

At this stage they have nothing to lose.  If you were not happy with them, they were not happy with you either, so you are giving them a chance to open up to you and show you what they can bring to the table.  It is very important that they define what they need from you and your role in their ideal relationship.  It will give you some insight into what motivates them.

Step Four: Define what you need from them to give them the support that they need from you.

You have nothing to lose by giving them the freedom to accomplish something that they believe will bring value to the organization.  But the deal is that they need to give you something in return.  This can be anything from meeting certain deadlines, showing an active participation in team meetings, whatever it is that you need to incorporate this person into your team as a functioning member.

Step Five:  Establish periodic reviews on all aspects of your new relationship.  Have they accomplished what they set out to do?  Are you providing them with the support they needed?  Are they providing what you asked for from them?  After a reasonable period of time, three to six months, you both will have come to one of three conclusions.

1)   Your employee has done an amazing job bringing value to your organization beyond your expectations.

2)   Your employee’s way of working was not the best way and they are more willing to do things your way.

3)   A mutual separation makes sense because you both made your best effort and the relationship does not work for anyone.

Two memorable comments I’ve heard over the years were-

“If it ever gets easy firing someone, then you need to quit”, and

“If you need to let someone go, it’s because you haven’t done a good job managing them”.

Based on my experience I offer you a different perspective on these two points.

Letting people go is never easy to do and should not be taken lightly.  However, by implementing these five steps I was always confident in my decision.  While I let some go, I am proud to have helped even more individuals make remarkable turnarounds in their careers.  If I can leave you with anything, I hope it is a desire to help people do great things, no matter how difficult the challeng


Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of


Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, and dynamic business leader with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth. Throughout her career, Lisa has been influential in integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and developing employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

      Contact Lisa

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