Terminations: A True Test of Your Company Culture

December 21st, 2012

by Jim Roddy

All of us have heard about messy terminations, and some of us have witnessed them firsthand. The most memorable are the employee who is escorted from the building, scowling at managers on the way out, or the guy who punches a hole in the conference room drywall in a fit of frustration. There’s also the person who quits without confrontation or communication, packing up their things when nobody’s watching, and leaving an “I Quit!” note for their supervisor.

The circumstances around other terminations are just plain awkward, and when you see the ex-employee in the grocery store, you unknowingly head to the Tampax aisle (even though you’re a single guy) just to avoid the conversation.

How can you avoid ugly terminations? Here are four suggestions for building the right culture:

  1. Don’t hire based on skill and personality only. Hire high character people. Don’t  think of character as honesty alone. Character includes kindness (considers others feelings), service (good steward and peacemaker), humility (admits personal faults), respectfulness (treats others with  dignity), and gratitude (shows appreciation). Ask questions that give you insight into these traits.
  2. Actually care about the people you hire. Some of the best advice I received as a young manager was, “Care about Aunt Martha’s big toe.” In other words, your concern for employees should go beyond their productivity at work.   Genuinely care about them as people, and they’ll return the sentiment.
  3. Share your organization’s principles and explain the “why” behind your company’s actions. When      employees don’t have all the facts, they frequently fill in the gaps with erroneous information. The more data you provide your people, the fewer gaps they’ll need to fill in on their own. This takes time, but it’s worth the investment.
  4. Stay close to your people. Don’t manage through reports only. Don’t assume your best or most veteran employees are fine and don’t need to talk with you regularly. Make sure you get out from behind your desk and engage in as many face-to-face interactions as you can. Have at least monthly  meetings or lunches one-on-one with your direct reports. There’s no substitute for a competent manager staying close to a person. Be that manager.