It’s Hard to Let Go

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In 8th grade I had a boyfriend, we’ll call him “Mr. ND;” he wore a Notre Dame jacket every day. On paper, Mr. ND was the perfect match for 8th grade Colleen. He got good grades, he was so sweet, and he was definitely less immature than those other 8th grade boys. So when Mr. ND asked me to go out, I said yes! Over the course of the next few weeks or month, however long junior high relationships last, Mr. ND and I would hang out at the lunch tables, we’d go to the library, he’d even let me wear that Notre Dame jacket.

But eventually, I knew Mr. ND and I, we were not the perfect match. But he was so sweet I just didn’t have the heart to tell him. I waited way too long, but I did eventually break up with my boyfriend. I had an out-of-body experience, so I can’t remember any of the details. But what I can share is that Mr. ND went on to have much more successful relationships, I went on to have much more successful relationships, and we are still connected via social media 35 years later.

Well, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. ND when I was speaking to one of our clients who’s the CEO of a small business, and he was telling me that one of his biggest challenges is not letting go of employees, even once he knows they are no longer the perfect match. He had a situation where more than one of these employees he knew deep down was not the right fit, but he just couldn’t get rid of them, he didn’t have the heart to let them go. He had the right intentions, he felt like this is their livelihood, he was giving them a paycheck, so he was just going to hang on to them as long as he could. He also felt like, “I don’t have a replacement and it’s going make me and everybody else have all of this extra workload. We’ll just make it work.”

Well of course, it didn’t work.

These employees ended up quitting anyhow, leaving him and the rest of his staff in a bind without having any backup. And I know you have been either in that same situation or you’re in it right now, where on paper, that employee was the perfect match; their resume was great, the interview process went well, they looked perfect for all of the personality assessments. But now that they’re in the role, it’s not the right fit.

And you deep down in your gut know that, yet you believe that, “Hey, I’m just going to hang on to them. I feel bad, I want to give them a second, a third, a tenth chance.” You believe that you are actually helping them, when in fact you are doing them a disservice. For every moment, day, or week that you hang on to them, you are stealing time from them. You are taking away the time that they could be investing and looking for the right fit opportunity for them.

Because at the end of it all, you’re going to let them go or they’re going to quit anyhow. You’re also claiming that it is about them, but I’m going to challenge you to look deep and say, is it really about them, or is it about you not feeling comfortable in having the conversation? And if that’s the case, go through the proper channels to get the support that you need. This CEO also shared that immediately after these employees left, his other team came to him and said, “Oh, thank goodness they’re gone. I had this problem, this was going on.”

When you don’t let go of an employee and everyone else sees the issues, you are risking your reputation as a leader. The rest of your team starts to question the strength you have as a leader. They wonder why you are making a poor decision. And potentially, it may cause them to leave or for them to say, “Well, my leader doesn’t care how we respond or behave. I might as well do the same.” So, do not hang on to employees for longer than is necessary. Go through the proper process and procedure, but when you know deep down that it’s not the right fit, do not kid yourself that it’s about them or that you believe you’re helping them. You’re not helping them, you’re not helping the rest of your team or your organization, and you’re definitely not helping yourself.

Move swiftly when you need to get rid of those employees.