Steps toward removing someone from the management team

Anyone who has worked in human resources for any period knows staffing issues come in all sorts of shapes and forms.

Getting people in the door is often a function of the economy, supply-and-demand of labor, pay scales, recruiting strategies, culture, etc. But frequently the bigger issue occurs when you have hired a person and you find it is the wrong person for the job.

The cost of turnover can run into thousands of dollars when you consider all the elements. In fact, you can find studies where this number is quoted as anywhere from 30 percent to 150 percent of the annual salary.

Consideration of such issues often starts at the point when you decide you have to remove the person from the position. Even getting to that point can be an agonizing process and may take weeks of observations and analysis. In the meantime, the job that needed to get done is not being handled properly. That can have all sorts of implications, including undoing or shoring up various actions taken by the employee.

HR can be a resource, but the issues usually start long before their involvement. Managers have to recognize their role and responsibility.

If the person in question is in a position of management, does that make a difference? It may be a generalization, but as you move up the hierarchy, each position has a broader impact on the organization and the people related to the position.

Management positions are usually more stable in the sense that movement into and out of them doesn’t happen quickly, and the people placed in such positions often have a longer relationship with the organization. It also takes longer to determine when they are not doing the job effectively. So, making decisions regarding management positions often brings anguish and special planning to correct the situation.

There are options, such as straight-out terminations, demotions to old positions, or restructuring the position to fit the skills and operating style of the incumbent. Some organizations will try the performance improvement approach with special training or coaching provisions. Of course, there is always a combination of strategies. Much depends on the situation and the perceptions of the ability to affect desired change.

Recently, we encountered situations where organizations were faced with multiple managers not performing required needs. In each instance, it was triggered by a change in the organization caused by business growth. The existing managers just didn’t have the horsepower to adjust to the new demands.

In some instances it was lack of training and knowledge; in others it was an unwillingness to work in required new ways, or emotional resistance to change. It also becomes more challenging when some of the key managers are relatives who are expected to take over the business.

It takes courage to step up to such issues. It also takes analysis and planning. It may require taking on new methods, and/or bringing in others to help make the necessary transitions. When it comes to managerial change, the organization leadership is frequently too close to the situation to address it effectively.

It also has to be examined in terms of how many players are part of the mix. You may be able to fire one individual and keep things functioning effectively for a while, but for each additional individual involved, the situation becomes exponentially complex. 

The first step is to determine and define the problem clearly. You have to know if it is an immediate and limited issue, or if it is one that will grow if not addressed. Looking at the time for correction is also a critical factor. Then there is the problem of what options are available and the cost of those options. Keep in mind that a delay in making a decision may require a different solution than the original idea.

Once through this process, you are likely ready to put the action plan in place. However, I’d advise one more pre-action step. Have someone who is somewhat removed from the situation or someone with good related experience examine the documentation to see if they arrive at the same assessment. 

Yes, I said documentation. This is not just a thinking process where you examine the facts like Sherlock Holmes and reach a conclusion. Many of the aspects that lead you in a direction may also be important from a legal perspective. If someone is losing their job or being demoted, there may be push-back, and you will want to have your bases covered.

Assuming your decision is sound and you will move ahead on the selected options, you should lay out a timeline of execution. Next, check this against your timeline for problem resolution and be sure they are aligned. If your plan makes sense; move ahead. Don’t let new elements creep into the process if possible, but be prepared to adjust when the unexpected crops up.

When you go back to the original intent of people alignment and organization needs, the matter of right skills, experience and style should not take you by surprise. It should be a planned process, with options for adjustment as circumstances evolve. 

It starts with an effective strategic plan. It should recognize what you will do from an active approach as well as watching indirect impacting influencers.

You need to be clear about how you expect the organization to change. Once you have this picture documented, a SWOT analysis associated with your planning can be very helpful. This is all about what is and what will be. Paralleling this process requires an in-depth look at who will do what over the timeline and what skills, etc., will be necessary, in comparison to what existing staff has.

Once this analysis is complete, there is the question of how you will fill the holes. Can you grow the talent or buy it? What is the timeline and who will facilitate the necessary actions?

Once again, the successful organization is the one that anticipates the issues and takes the preemptive action on a timely basis. This helps avoid the discovery and headaches of needing to replace all or part of the management team.

Ardon L. Schambers is president and principal of P3HR Consulting & Services.

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