The Human Resource: Difficult decisions

It is not uncommon for a small business owner to face a decision that has significant consequences to the company. What may not be common, is when the decision requires the business owner to decide what is good for the business, or what is good for an employee. These situations go right to the core of leadership capabilities that influence the owner’s ability to see the big picture and benefits of holding employees accountable.

What I hear so often is “if I fire him/her, how do I get the work done?” This is a great question and one that needs to address the short and long-term impact of the situation. The answer can be very simple, you use other existing resources to get the work done, you do the work yourself, or the work doesn’t get done.

The complexity of the solution comes down to your ability to acknowledge, accept, and address the problem as opposed to ignoring it and creating a myriad of problems for your organization. Do you recall when you were growing the business and didn’t have this resource in the workforce? You found a way to recruit and hire an employee to effectively perform the role and responsibilities of the positions. Whether you have the confidence or not, you can replicate this prior success to get the work done.

Embracing conflict with others is no easy task, and is challenging to many business owners. It is fun to hire someone, it is scary to discipline or fire someone, especially if you are not equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to do so effectively and appropriately. I want to help you think about the consequences that could evolve in your workforce when you fail to hold staff accountable.

Morale will diminish, accountability across the organization will erode, respect for leadership dissipates, trust in management vanishes, and communication and engagement become negative. Over time, precedence for permitting the poor performance or conduct will become part of the culture and acceptable for everyone, creating a long-term challenge to organizational development and the creation of competitive advantage through your human capital.

Business owners always try to put the business first. However, in my experience, putting the business first means something different for each of us. For me, making difficult personnel decisions that ultimately contributes to the long-term success of the business far outweighs the absence of accountability for a single employee and the short-term resource challenges.

It often becomes easier for the owner to ignore the problem and continue business as usual hoping the situation will resolve itself. Unfortunately, the problem generally expands and impacts other members of the workforce, potentially costing you more time, money, and resources to correct later.

The solution includes a blend of effective and consistent performance management practices and proactive recruitment strategies. Establish goals and expectations, communicate them, and perform periodic review and assessment so that you identify problems at the earliest possible time. This will position you to take appropriate corrective action to support the individual in achieving set expectations. As your performance management practices are executed, challenges will be identified that allow for the strategic planning of resource allocation, training, and recruitment to complement or replace the poor performing employee.

Your recruitment strategy should include the development of an ongoing pool of qualified applicants for all key positions in your workforce. This approach minimizes the anxiety and negative feeling a business owner experiences when they need to terminate a resource on their team. When you allow your practices to put you in a situation where you feel hopeless and dependent on one of your own employees, you are placing the success of your business in jeopardy. The situation will make you feel as if your hands are tied and cannot take any action towards the employee because there is no one else to do the work. Don’t put yourself in this situation, and instead plan and inform your actions through the ongoing execution of performance management and engagement.

Listen, at the end of the day, this entire article describes a situation in which the business owner has a decision to make to keep or terminate an employee placing the business and workforce in jeopardy. An even greater reality is any employee at any time could resign, placing you in the same situation except they took control of the timeline.

The key message here is to hold your employees accountable. Act to protect your culture and morale, and establish a strategic recruitment plan for key personnel. Execute this guidance and you will be doing what is best for your business, and not only what is best for the poor performing employee.

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to

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About Warren Cook

Warren S. Cook is a co-founder of SymbianceHR and leads all client-consulting engagements. He is a human capital strategy management subject matter expert with more than 20 years of experience as a strategic business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for all client-consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized complex human capital strategy solutions that meet the client's business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren combines his human capital, project management, and business management experience with a philosophy of solving business challenges through the strategic implementation of policies, processes, and procedures to deliver sustainable solutions that demonstrate ROI, mitigate and manage risk, and empower organizational success. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today” and holds a bachelor of science degree in human resource management, a master’s of business administration in project management, and a master’s of science degree in industrial and organizational psychology. He is also a SHRM Certified Professional.



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