How to get rid of the employee that doesn't fit

He was tall, dark and handsome and a great lover. From the outside, he appeared to be the ideal date and partner. But after 3 months of living together, Jenny realised that her ideal mate was less than ideal. Whilst he could turn on a charming personality, he liked drinking with the boys each night while she preferred walks in the country. She liked a tidy house and he preferred to live in a mess.

Like Jenny, have you ever hired someone who appeared to have all their technical skills for the job, but when put in the work environment turned out to be a complete nightmare? Maybe their CV read perfectly but they did not live up to their billing? If so, read on.

How you end up with a complete nightmare

There are two main reasons why you may end up with a complete nightmare employee. The first is that on paper the candidate appeared to be the perfect fit but in reality annoyed everyone she worked with . No amount of technical knowledge could compensate for the employee's inability to work as part of a team. The second, and quite common reason, is that you have promoted someone from a technical position to a team leadership position as part of their career development not realising that the person was not suitable for this new role and would have been much happier doing the technical work. Instead he leaves a trail of destruction in the workplace and his reports end up leaving because they can't stand him.

In both these situations, the employee is incompatible with your business and the role which they occupy. But what do you do?

Incompatibility dismissals

The law does recognise that it is possible to dismiss an employee on the grounds that they incompatible. However, such dismissals are rare and very difficult to justify. However, before abandoning this route, let's look at what incompatibility means. For Jenny, incompatibility meant that her new boyfriend didn't live up to her values. He had a great personality which worked on a dinner date, but when it came to core values they were at odds.

Your business will have core values too and if you end up with an employee who doesn't match up to your core values, then you will have an incompatible employee. For example, some businesses have very strong values around customer service, whilst others place emphasis on profit. Some businesses place emphasis on team work whilst others are more inclined towards the importance of presentation and punctuality. Google is a very different company to work for compared to working for the IRD. Neither is right nor wrong, but both have different values.

Your ability to retain employees will be determined largely by your values. Research suggests that the most popular reason why employees stay in employment is not salary, but because they see themselves as a good fit with their employer's values.

Do you communicate and live by your values?

If you have an employee who doesn't fit, he or she won't be living up to your values. However, unless you have communicated those values to them, they may be oblivious to the fact and certainly will not do anything about it. But how to you communicate your values? Sure, you can publish them on coffee mugs and hang posters on the wall, but if you want to remove an incompatible employee then you are going to need to do something more formal. Values which are specific to the type of role the person carries out (e.g. how to be a good leader of others) should be in the job description as part of a key performance indicator. In other words, a failure to lead others in accordance with your values becomes a performance issue. Note how we are now talking about performance rather than incompatibility. We know we can dismiss an employee on the grounds of poor performance, so by putting your values in your job description's key performance indicators, you have turned an incompatibility issue into a performance issue.

Another method of communicating your values is to formulate policies. Policies are extensions of the employment agreement and set rules and standards by which employees must behave. For example, you can have a policy about employees' interaction with customers. If an employee breaks a policy, it becomes a misconduct issue and of course we can always dismiss on grounds of misconduct.

And all of a sudden incompatibility disappears

Incompatibility only exists in workplaces that haven't properly communicated their values to their employees. Those that have don't talk about incompatibility or wrong fit, instead they talk about misconduct or poor performance and they act upon each accordingly.

So, if you haven't worked out the values of your business then you need to give it some thought now. Your values will evolve over time as your business grows, but start now by refining them and working them into your job descriptions and workplace policies.

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