Several years ago, I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert. (Remember those?)
It was over three hours long and by the time we were done, I remember turning to my friend and saying, “Now THAT was a concert.”
Then, a few years back, we were in New York for the weekend (remember weekends away?) and Bette Midler was in her last weekend in the Broadway production of “Hello Dolly” along with David Hyde Pierce from Frasier. We got cheap tickets WAY in the balcony.
But we all agreed that it was easily one of the best shows we had seen in some time and my skepticism that Bette Midler was overrated was, well, way offbase.
I’ve realized over the years that spending money to see the best artists at what they do brings me much joy and happiness (calling Marie Kondo). These performers aren’t merely good. They are fantastic at what they do.
Now, by the same token, I also remember having tickets to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s sequel to Phantom of the Opera called Love Never Dies.
Never heard of it? That’s because it wasn’t just mediocre — it was awful. So bad that we walked out at intermission. After all, why waste more time on something that is just painful to watch? Sometimes you need just cut your losses.
Think about now of your business, or your department. And the people that you have. The fact is that some are better at what they do than others.
For your top performers, business books will say that you should reward them. That’s easy.
But what to do with the ones at the bottom?
That’s when the lawyers come in. Often times, a client will call and you can immediately hear the stress in their voice. They have had it. An employee needs to be fired; can the lawyer help?
The answer is always “Yes”, but there are distinct caveats and questions that have to be asked. Among them:
- What documentation do you have?
- Is there a contract involved or is the employee “at will”?
- Is the person in a protected class?
- How do you treat other similarly situated people?
- And will the employee be blindsided or understand the decision?
And so on. Most times, the decision to terminate the employment of an employee is a business decision, not a legal one. And there are business questions to be asked too such as:
- What impact is this employee having on the business?
- Can the investment in the employee be rescued with counseling and support?
- Are there alternatives (perhaps even another position) to termination of employment that are available?
Once both legal and business questions have been asked and answered, a lawyer can help a business evaluate the decision further and make suggestions on how to reduce risk (such as suggesting a separation agreement) that might still otherwise exist.
But one thing I do know: Ending the employment of an employee may be painful for all involved in the short term (with the obvious note that the employee will suffer the most), but often times, it can result in something new.
As the author Maria Konnikova has written, “When we should be cutting our losses, we instead recommit…”
Ultimately, spending too much time with the poor performers detracts from the attention you could be giving your top performers — the ones who bring in money to the business. Talk with your lawyer to make sure the decisions you make with benefit the company in the long run.
You won’t regret those decisions.