Article Date: 4/1/2013

Business Strategies
Business Strategies

Put an End to Poor Performance

Here’s why terminating an employee may be the best solution for everyone.


Time to put on my mentalist hat and make a prediction: You have at least one staff member who just doesn’t get it. Be it attitude or skill, he/she continually and repeatedly underperforms and rarely, if ever, meets your baseline expectations. Further, he/she has been working for you for at least a year.

Does that describe someone in your practice? If so, I assure you that you are not alone. We could walk into nearly any practice and find this person. But finding him/her isn’t the hard part. Firing this person is. And after multiple genuine and unsuccessful attempts at coaching and training, firing is the best solution for your practice, for you and for the employee.

Why you should do it

Jack Welch, the former CEO at General Electric used a concept known as “rank and yank” — in which employees were ranked, and the bottom 10% were fired. That’s the bad news. The good news is that post-firing, the remaining 90% were the proverbial wheat separated from the chaff. In theory at least, those surviving the firing should be better performers.

With a small staff, it’s impractical to fire 10% if you have, for example, three employees. But if you know (because you’ve “ranked”) a staff member who is constantly less productive than others, it certainly makes sense to terminate that employee. Is it easy? No. Is it “right”? From a purely non-emotional business perspective, who could argue otherwise?

Why it’s hard to do

Most of us do not have 30,000 employees whose faces we don’t know. We know their kids, their hobbies and how they spent their vacation. We probably have their family members and friends as patients. The more we become emotionally connected to our employees, the more difficult it is to fire them — regardless of their performance. I do not advocate cold-hearted management by intimidation, but I am an advocate for the doctor reaching his/her practice goals. And if the underperforming staff member is an impediment, I recommend he/she be cut loose sooner rather than later.

Why it’s good for everyone

Obviously, a practice will benefit when an employee who is a liability is replaced with one who’s an asset. But what about you and the employee? How does a termination help both of you?

Other than going through the actual (but temporary) angst of the firing process, I have found practice owners invariably feel like a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders post-firing.

For the employee, when the firing discussion happens, most are not surprised. In fact, I’ve actually heard many intimate, “I know. I was expecting you to do this a long time ago.” I’d argue a lot of cases exist in which you are actually helping the employee by no longer allowing him/her to work in your practice, as you are giving him/her an opportunity to find a position that best fits his/her personality and skills.

Next steps

Whether you “rank and yank” or do nothing, you should at least come to the realization that a long-standing, poor-performing employee, who has been unresponsive to repeated attempts at amelioration, won’t get any better. If you don’t “yank,” then move on, and stop complaining. Don’t dwell on continued poor performance if you’re not willing to replace the individual. Instead, place your H.R. energy elsewhere. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: April 2013, page(s): 59