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Termination: The Leader's Failure

The decision to terminate an employee can be a difficult one...and in this age of increasing competition for talent, it should be difficult.


As an Executive Coach, I have had many conversations with leaders faced with difficult termination decisions. These often begin with the leader providing "justification" for the termination countered with a list of the past value or contributions of the employee. Occasionally, after weighing the pro's and con's of maintaining the employee, the leader concludes that the decision to terminate is in the best interest of the organization and its workforce; but this is not always the case.


Occasionally, the leader uncovers a hidden opportunity, and at times, an alternative path to releasing an employee who has demonstrated a commitment to the organization over time. Unless the cause is so aggregious that it compromises the organization's reputation, violates core values, or presents a threat to the health and welfare of the workforce, leaders owe it to the organization to be diligent in seeking to uncover the value in maintaining the relationship with that employee and work to re-establish a commitment to meeting expectations.


In a recent situation, a senior administrator released a long-term employee who had been dedicated to the organization. The senior administrator had made the decision to shift focus of a project initiative. Rather than engage the long-term employee to discuss the shift in expectations and garner buy-in for the new direction, the senior administrator decided to terminate the employee without pursuing that conversation.


Unfortunately for the organization, the decision to terminate was made before there was an opportunity for a conversation. There is a lesson here for those who want to learn. That is, termination of an employee is not an act of leadership, it is a sign of failure. As leaders, we have a responsibility to optimize the resources of the organization to achieve strategic objectives and serve our customers. As a leaders, we have a responsibility to remove barriers to performance. Those barriers may be a simple as providing clear direction, clarifying expectations, providing training and the resources to be successful in the role, and providing feedback and assurance regarding the value of the contributions of our employees.


When employees fail to meet your expectations, consider whether you failed them.

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© 2018-2019 by Soulful Leadership, LLC.

Greater Milwaukee Area, Wisconsin

Joseph Weitzer, PhD

Managing Partner and Senior Strategist

jweitzer@soulfulleadership.net