Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: I am the HR Director for a privately-owned company in Atlanta. The CEO’s wife, son, and daughter are all employees. The daughter reports to me. She’s chronically late for work, surfs the internet, shops online nearly every day, and is generally unproductive and disruptive. What’s worse, she tells her parents stories about people at work that the CEO asks me to investigate which often turn out to be untrue or half true, at best.
I’ve expressed my frustration to the CEO several times, and told him that I can’t ignore her behavior any longer. At first, he suggested that I find another position for her in the company. Finally, he agreed to let me make the decision. Moving her to another role would be handing my problem to someone else – someone who may not feel comfortable telling the CEO how she’s working out. Bottom line. I need to let her go. Can you give me some tips on how to handle this as delicately as possible?
Answer: It may help you to think of the favor you would be doing for your employee’s career in the long run. Her behavior would not be tolerated in any other company, and she’s missing out on the valuable opportunity to build the skills she needs to be a productive team member. The longer she puts off learning those skills, the harder time she’ll have keeping a job with a company that she may really love.
Having said that, the unique position that you’re in calls for a unique approach. Here are a few suggestions for how to ease the process.
Get backup. Since your employee has a history of reporting inaccuracies to her parents, ask another member of the HR Department to be in the room for the termination meeting. Let the employee know that the team member is joining you to record the conversation in writing, and that a transcript will be made available to the terminated employee, upon request.
Find the right time and place. Select a time and location for the meeting that will allow the employee to exit with dignity and draw as little attention from former co-workers and friends as possible. There’s no need to subject her to a walk of shame.
Offer a way forward. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt about why she wasn’t successful at your company. Maybe she’s better suited to work in a highly creative environment. Maybe she needs a more physically stimulating job. Encourage your employee to take a few days to think about her next move. Offer to meet with her again away from the office to discuss ways that you can facilitate her transition like reviewing her resume and thinking about roles or industries she may be better suited for.
Because you’ll probably run into your boss’s daughter again at company picnics or parties, and because you still have to work with her family, it’s best to do whatever you can to end the work relationship with respect and goodwill.