You have employees who have performance issues that may be documented but have managed to convince the former management that they can retain their position. However, after a major political shift, which saw new managers with green lenses come in and are now seeing red, has the time come to part ways?
It’s the 18th of December. You are a Deputy Director General and you have an under performing staff member that hasn’t responded to months of training, coaching, counseling and warnings. After exploring all options you have no option but to terminate their employment. Is it better to do so now or after they return from their Christmas holiday?
But given that we are so close to Christmas, I am curious as to how other Deputy Director Generals and Parastatals would have handled such a situation? Do you terminate immediately, wait until after the holidays, or wait until the New Year?
In addition to doing what is right by this, we obviously don’t want to have any adverse affect on morale by terminating someone close to Christmas.
Well, if keeping them on a few more weeks would cause harm to your institution (i.e., they will cause real damage in that amount of time), then you really can’t avoid acting now. (And be generous with the severance if you can.) But otherwise, you should deal with them for a couple of weeks more and do it in early January.
Reasons for this are as follows:
1) Compassion — You don’t want to be someone who fires people right before Christmas, as long as you can avoid it without real harm; and
2) The morale of others — You don’t want your other employees to conclude that you’re a jerk who fires people right before Christmas.
It’s worth noting, though, that this is yet one more good reason not to put off dealing with serious performance issues (which it sounds like was allowed to happen here). If you put it off rather than acting when you know you should, then you sometimes run into a situation which ends up making it harder to terminate and not just the holidays.
And just for imagination sake, if you put it off and then the employee happens to file a claim for medical leave or a disability accommodation (unrelated to the performance issues) just as you were about to act. You could still proceed, of course, but now you’d have a sticky legal minefield to navigate, and your risk factor would go way up.
So I would agree with that school of thought that says if you need to let someone go, don’t drag it out. And yes, most Directors, being human, like to give people additional chances and like to avoid telling people they have failed. And as a result, many Directors prolong these situations when they shouldn’t. Terminating employment is never easy. Even those managers that seem very hard-nosed still find it to be a very difficult and an uncomfortable experience.
Let’s be clear, there is no “good time” to sack an employee. If you go looking for reasons why now isn’t a good time you will find one. Procrastinating about making the decision will only lead to more problems – stress, anxiety and nervousness for the managers involved and the continued flow on effect for the organisation of having an under performer.
But let me come back to the aspect of humanity in reality. Is this the right time? When the proverbial ground is very very dry?
Be sensitive with timing. Every person is different, and every circumstance will be too. Knowing how the termination will affect the employee is an important consideration. For some it would be better to tell them before Christmas, for others afterwards. You’ll need to make a judgement call. You might not always get this right, but it’s important to learn from each case.
Set the date and stick to it. If the employee is not being informed immediately then set a date and time in advance. This allows for the Line Manager, HR Manager and any other parties involved to be prepared.
Remember it’s not all about them. While it’s important to be considerate and sensitive as a manager or even a government, you have other responsibilities too. Paying an employee an extra 3 or 4 weeks wages just to be nice might be an expense you cannot afford. Don’t feel bad if this is the case.
So, should you fire someone before or after Christmas? It’s really a case-by-case basis.
Why did the DDG of NATCOM do this?
We know the Board is the sole employer at NATCOM with the statuary mandate to hire and fire employees according to the Telecoms Act and Employee Handbook of the Commission. Section 49 of the Employee Handbook makes it mandatory that all letters of dismissal must be signed by the Chairman/ Commissioner.
That letter informing all staff of NATCOM about the decision to have their employment contracts terminated clearly usurps the role of the Board by unlawfully sacking and employing staff without the Board Chairman’s signature. This blatant breach of recruitment and disciplinary procedures of the Commission is itself an act of corruption that should be investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
How would an employee who was employed with No job advert; No submission of CVs to NATCOM; No submission of genuine copies of certificates to NATCOM; and No job interview by the Board of NATCOM now sign a letter that announces the termination of contracts for 91 members of staff?
Put bluntly, we are very much aware that Massaquoi and Kaitibie were employed purely through verbal recommendations like any domestic servant. Their appointments are therefore legally untenable. The puzzle we are piecing together now is whether these two characters will be among those who will reapply against 12th January 2019.
That process could have been followed in an orderly, well timed and humane manner and not all of a sudden and at Christmas time. No. That is thoughtless and inhumane. You will send some people to an early grave by that. We are all in favour of restructuring and want to see sanity in that sector but we don’t want a bull in a china shop tactic.