When Letting Someone Go Is About Values

When Letting Someone Go Is About ValuesLast month I wrote about, “Breaking up Is Hard to Do,” and why it can be necessary. Sometimes it’s because of a skill set mismatch, but more often than not it’s about a values disconnect. It’s when you say, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they don’t really fit.” This is almost always about values.

When it’s an integrity issue, e.g. stealing, lying, cheating, etc., it’s much easier to identify the value being violated and let the person go. It’s in the manual. It’s a clear violation of values and company rules and the person is gone. When it’s a “not qualified” or “inability to learn” or grow a new skill set, it’s also easier to identify the person as not capable for the job and make the change.

It’s those “in-between” values that make it a tough call. Recently, I had a client who had someone who was “okay” according to the manager, but wasn’t a “good fit.” When I probed a little further, I found out that although the person was performing their job, they were highly independent. They did not collaborate with others and did not share personal or professional information. This caused others to distrust this person, although there was not a single specific moment or issue.

The real problem was that one of the organization’s deeply held values is collaboration. One of this particular employee’s values was independence, coupled with a high level of introversion. So the question was, what should they do? Although there was nothing wrong with the employee’s work product, over time, it was going to prove hard to welcome someone who did not want to participate in the company’s collaborative culture. It would cause a rift and potentially some good people might leave because it was uncomfortable. Remember, there was already mistrust, even though there was not a specific incident.

People’s values don’t change. The only thing to do in these types of situations is to talk with the employee about the company’s culture and share what the perceptions are from others. At this point, the employee can choose to stay or leave to find a company whose values, (such as independence), are a better fit. People can fake it for a while with the best of intentions, but over time, it’s like driving a car in first gear while going 50. At some point, something burns out.

In this case, the employee was not happy either, so they parted ways amicably and provided a good reference and the employee was able to find a much better job that suited his independence. The collaborative team breathed a sigh of relief and made a better hire the second time – interviewing for collaboration from the start.