Three Strikes and You’re Out!

It’s disappointing when an employee doesn’t meet your expectations. You may be frustrated, but it’s important to assume goodwill on the part of the poor performer. No one gets up in the morning and plans to disappoint you. No one wants to fail at his or her job.

But not everyone is going to be a good fit for your company. That’s a fact. If one of your team members just doesn’t get it, doesn’t want the job, or doesn’t have the capacity to do it, don’t let the drama drag on.

How do you know when you’ve given enough chances? How do you know when it’s time to let the person go?

The Analysis

Here’s a fair process for confronting performance problems and getting the wrong people off the bus:

1. Does the person adhere to your organization’s core values?

Really, the ideal team member exhibits behavior that supports ALL of the organization’s core values most or all of the time. But when you need to draw the line, where do you draw it?

First, you have your “non-negotiable” values, like honesty. If the person doesn’t adhere to those non-negotiable values, s/he needs to go. There’s just not a lot of room for discussion here.

If the employee meets all of your non-negotiable core values but is iffy on two or more of the others (like “reliability” or “service first”), it’s time to let that person go.

2. Does the person pass the GWC test?

The GWC test (Gets it, Wants it, has the Capacity) is the second phase of the analysis.

  • Does the person “get it,” meaning does s/he understand her role, the team’s values, and the applicable systems and expectations?
  • Does the employee want it, meaning does s/he really want that particular job?
  • Does the employee have the capacity (time, intellect, skill, knowledge, emotional intelligence, and physical ability) to do the job?

If the answer to any of the questions is “no,” ask yourself if the person is the right fit but in the wrong seat. Can you make room for the employee somewhere else in your organization? If not, it’s time for that person to go.

The Three Strike Rule

Assuming it’s a situation where you can’t move the person to another seat and want to give her a chance to improve, use the three-strike rule as outlined by Gino Wickman in Traction. First, tell the employee that there’s a problem and give her 30 days to improve. That’s Strike 1. Here’s what could happen:

  • The person totally turns things around, improves performance, and shows that s/he is actually a good fit. It’s a win-win for all involved.
  • The person leaves your practice. That’s OK. It wasn’t a fit, and you can all move on.
  • Performance does not improve in 30 days. That’s Strike 2. You discuss it again and give her another 30 days. No improvement. That’s Strike 3. The employee is not going to change, and you have to let the person go.

Remember, just because a particular employee is not a good fit for your company culture, or for the role you need to fill, does not mean she won’t be a good fit someplace else. She is probably tired of disappointing you. It is in the best interest of your company, your team, and the under-performer to let her go.