How do you know when it is time to let someone go? At what point is it time to throw in the towel, give up, move on? Is it giving up on them, have they given up on themselves, or both? Or, is it a matter of finding the right person for the right job?
Some have said that the right moment to let someone go (fire, terminate, whatever you want to call it), is the first time you think they are not going to make it. Supposedly (and I have heard this on many podcasts, read this in several articles, and heard from a handful of people – so I am not the only one), the moment you think they are “not going to cut it” is the moment you should end the professional relationship.
In some sense, I agree. If they truly just don’t have what it takes, then it is time to help them find the right fit somewhere else. But, if it requires a little more effort on your part to turn the individual around and help them succeed, wouldn’t that be better for all involved? On the other hand, what is the reason they are not succeeding? Is it a lack of leadership on your part? Is there something occurring in their life that is causing them to miss the mark?
Some leaders, in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, follow the mantra, “slow to hire, quick to fire.” The premise is to take the time to find the best fit for the position based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as potential, and the organization will be better for it. Taking the time to find the right person reduces the potential need to terminate them in the future.
A bit of transparency here. I tend to keep people around a little too long. I lean towards helping (although it is not always helpful for them to keep them around) them until the very (sometimes bitter) end. Bitter in that they feel I could have done more, while I am feeling I have done all I can. So, a lesson from yours truly, if you think they are not going to make it, tell them! Let them know that they are at risk of losing their job. Be honest, but with tact. Ensure they realize you are there to help them and you have their best interest at heart. Doing so will help them and you, make the right decision.
When is the best time to let someone go? When you both have done all that can be reasonably expected. It could be that first moment you think they cannot make it, or when you have given all that you can. Be honest, be helpful, and have no regrets – you or the one being let go.