5 Questions to ask yourself when making tough people calls

As a founder running an SME, you quickly learn that making tough choices is a big part of the gig! And it’s not easy as normally these choices involve people decisions that impact the people you employ. Today I am going to dive into a topic that might make you squirm a bit: and I know you have all been in the situation where you have a team member that is not cutting the mustard. You knew from the start that they were not the right fit, but you let it go on past the 6-month mark because you were avoiding making the call.

Does this sound familiar? Your gut was telling you that the person was not right but you were too proud or conflict-avoidant to remove them from your business? I know I have. Multiple times and every single time I wish that I had acted sooner.

That’s why I now tell my clients to…

Hire slowly, Fire Quickly.

But what does that really mean? It means taking your time to find the right people not just the most available person. Go with your gut, look out for red flags, and then within the first 6 months watch them like a hawk and if they aren’t right then act fast and remove them in their probation period.

Making the hard decision to move on from an underperforming team member is bloody hard. And, it’s also uncomfortable, but trust me, it’s crucial for the health and growth of your business.

First off, let’s get real about the impact of having poor performers in a small team. In a big corporation, a weak link might go unnoticed for a while, but in an SME, every single person counts. Each team member’s contribution (or lack thereof) can make a significant difference in your business’s trajectory. So, let’s explore the top five questions I ask my clients to reflect on when they’re grappling with the decision to let someone go.

1.. If they resigned tomorrow, what would the impact be?

Close your eyes and picture this scenario: it’s Monday morning, and you find an email in your inbox – a resignation letter from your underperforming employee. How do you feel? Relieved? Stressed? Indifferent? Now, think about the business. Would operations stumble, or would things actually improve?

If your gut reaction is a sense of relief or even mild indifference, it’s a pretty clear sign that this person isn’t as crucial as they should be. Your business might even thrive without them. This thought experiment can be quite revealing and help you see the situation more clearly.

2.. If given the chance, would you re-hire them?

Imagine you’re back at square one, knowing everything you know now. Would you re-hire this person? If the answer is no, then why are they still on your payroll?

This is a powerful question because it cuts through the noise. Often, we keep people around due to a sense of obligation, guilt, or just plain inertia. But your team should be composed of people who you’d enthusiastically re-hire any day of the week. If that’s not the case, it might be time to part ways.

3.. Does this person really align with our values and culture?

Culture fit is more than just a buzzword. In small businesses, it’s the glue that holds everything together. An employee who doesn’t align with your company’s values and culture can be toxic, dragging down morale and productivity.

Think about your core values and what kind of culture you want to cultivate. Does this person embody those values? Are they contributing positively to your team dynamics? If not, their misalignment could be causing more harm than you realise.

4.. Are the employee’s gaps coachable or worth investing In?

Not all performance issues are created equal. Some gaps are coachable, meaning with the right support and training, the employee could turn things around. But other gaps are more fundamental and not worth the investment.

Consider whether this employee’s shortcomings are due to a lack of skills that can be developed or if they stem from deeper issues like poor attitude or lack of motivation. If it’s the latter, no amount of coaching is going to make a difference, and your resources would be better spent elsewhere.

5.. How does retaining this employee impact the overall team and business dynamics?

Finally, think about the ripple effect of keeping this person on your team. How does their presence impact the morale and productivity of others? Are they dragging the team down or setting a poor example?

One underperformer can have a disproportionate negative impact, especially in a small team. High-performing employees might feel frustrated or demotivated if they see a teammate not pulling their weight. This can lead to a toxic environment where mediocrity is tolerated, which is the last thing you want.

Trust Your Gut

Now, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and tap into your inner voice. You know that little voice in your head that pipes up usually when you are about to fall asleep? What is it saying to you? As a founder or CEO, your gut instincts are often your best guide. If your gut tells you that it’s time to let someone go, don’t ignore that feeling. It’s tough, but your business and your team will be better off for it.

Making hard decisions is part of the gig. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary. By asking these five questions and trusting yourself, you’ll be better equipped to make the right call for your business. Remember, every decision you make shapes the future of your SME. So, make them count.

There you have it, folks! A little tough love, a bit of soul-searching, and a whole lot of positive change for your business. Keep leading with courage and clarity and watch your SME soar.

We have some further articles that may help support you to take action if you want more tips on how to go through the process see below

Managing Poor Performance

Poor Performance or Poor Leadership

Disciplinary Action the importance of following through

And if you need some support from us on how to do it in a kind and lawful way then reach out.

We have your back.

Written by Emily Jaksch

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