I remember when I had to fire an employee.
She was one of the nicest individuals. However, she was consistently tardy, she was causing work stoppage with colleagues, and worse, she was not handling responses with donors in an appropriate and timely manner. After many conversations and opportunities to improve, I knew. I knew she did not have the skill set we needed to move our organization forward.
She was not making me, the staff or the organization look good.
Knowing I needed to let her go, it did not make it any easier. I fretted for weeks knowing I had to have that dreaded conversation.
We are programmed to avoid conflict. We rationalize poor performance to avoid taking action.
Compassionate people are drawn to nonprofit work. Nonprofit leaders, no doubt, want to change the world! They bleed compassion.
However, at times, that compassion can get in the way in making tough decisions and good business decisions.
Nonprofit work is a business.
Donors are investing in your work. They need to know their funds are being put to good use. That means investing in talented staff. Executive directors cannot put up with bad performances, bad attitudes, and low productivity. We have a business to run.
If you have someone currently on staff, and they are not performing at a level needed, don’t allow the situation to continue. Do something. Yes, it is uncomfortable to have these types of employee conversations.
Do semi-annual and annual reviews. Invest in training and providing what is necessary for them to be successful. After you have tried to salvage an otherwise good staffer, consider helping her find another position – inside or outside the organization.
I watched a very talented young man beat down every day because he was not in the right seat on the bus. He finally left his position and is now churning out work that he absolutely loves.
1. It brings down the morale of the other employees.
Your employees know this person is the weak link in the organization. As a leader, you look weak for putting up with bad performance.
2. Your supporters are watching.
You want your donors and board members to say, “That is a well-run organization. I believe in the mission and in the people running the organization.”
3. It is a disservice to you, the organization and, particularly, to the struggling employee.
Don’t overlook poor performance at the expense of disrespecting high performers. That’s a fast way to lose respect. Encourage the struggling employee to find a job right for her. We should all find that position where we love it so much that we would almost do it for free.
1. Have I utilized our performance reviews? If not, that is a good place to start.
2. Would I rehire this same employee if she left and wanted to come back?
3. Would corporate hire the people we have working for us?
If you answered “no,” to any of these three questions, get busy. Certainly implement a good performance review process immediately if you do not have one.
It is important to come to grips when you need to fire an employee. It is particularly difficult when you’ve invested so much effort to remediate her weaknesses. It is one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever have to make as a leader.
My comments are based on my experiences and working with nonprofits. Please seek the advice of a human resource expert if you have issues of uncertainty. There are employment and legal issues to consider.
Question: As an executive director of a nonprofit, do you feel like you are weak when it comes to weeding out bad performing staff?
Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising guide. She provides overwhelmed nonprofit leaders with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].
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