Got your own answer ready? Let’s see how other managers would deal with Tracy.
Most of the experienced managers I consulted want to give Tracy another shot – somehow. A few suspected that Tracy had personal issues, such as drugs or a bad relationship (especially because the managers each had encountered such a problem). But she’d have a very short rope.
“I’d have a ‘come to Jesus’ discussion with her,” said Mark Patterson, a CRM consultant and former IT VP. “I would outline the issues we are experiencing, discuss the fact that her performance is not up to par, and then compare that with her performance at the start of the job a few months before.”
Patterson would tell her: “Look, something happened that changed your performance, and I would like to address it. Carolyn and I would like you to stay if possible. Can you tell me what is going on?” The intent is to get Tracy to open up, in order to work out a probation plan. If the organization has an Employee Assistance Program, Patterson would encourage her to call them, emphasizing that such programs are completely confidential.
Otherwise, Patterson said, “I would ‘counsel her out of the organization,’ which is basically firing with advice. I would have HR in the room. The ‘counseling’ part is to (a) tell the person exactly what led to her being let go, and (b) earnest advice derived from experience with the employee about the types of work she may want to pursue that are better suited to her, assuming the relationship brought that to light. At this point, she is not a fit for the job, and it is best across the boards to let her go.”
“My response would be to do my best to find out what’s behind her change of attitude, and then act accordingly. Depending on the cause, I might or might not give her another chance,” said Harwell Thrasher, author of Boiling the IT Frog: How to Make Your Business Information Technology Wildly Successful Without Having to Learn Anything Technical, who has been leading, managing, hiring, and firing people for over 40 years. “It sounds like something is going on in Tracy’s personal life that’s affecting her job performance.”
Thrasher would discuss Tracy’s job performance with her and find out whether she agrees that these are work problems. “If she can’t be made to see the impact of her behavior, then I might be inclined to write Tracy off and fire her while she’s still on probation (she’s already been through a PIP),” he said. It’s not a matter of capability; she already proved she can do the job. “It’s a matter of motivation, and of Tracy making a commitment to do better.”
Like others, Thrasher would look for what’s going on at a personal level (e.g., death in the family, trouble at home, romantic breakup, substance abuse, etc.), and choose a path to help her resolve it – or at least help her to separate her work life from her personal life.
Thrasher would also ask Tracy why she wanted this job in the first place and where she expects to go with it. Assuming that there is some possibility of career growth, he would try to match that possible career growth with Tracy’s goals, and to talk to Tracy in those terms. “In my own experience, the key to motivating people is to align an individual’s personal goals with business goals.”
Or as Brenda Christensen, president of Stellar Public Relations said succinctly, “I would discover what her true talents and passions are and place her in a position within the organization where she’d be a better fit!”
Another issue is how Carolyn has addressed the problem. “Something is broken. It’s not clear to me it’s Tracy alone. If it is all about Tracy, fire her. If it’s not, Tim has a bigger problem: a manager who is not managing,” says Johanna Rothman, coauthor of Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management and several other management books.
Rothman would find out whether Carolyn had weekly one-on-ones with Tracy. “Did Carolyn provide feedback to Tracy? If so, it’s time to let Tracy go. She costs more than she is worth,” said Rothman. If not, Tim has to decide how much more of a chance to provide Tracy. Rothman recommended creating a three-week action plan with Carolyn that includes weekly meetings for Tracy and Carolyn, with multiple deliverables to see Tracy can do the work (and is interested in it). In doing so, Tracy would be clearly informed that she would be fired if she does not deliver according to the plan.
However, not everyone has the patience to deal with Tracy. David Strom, a freelance tech writer who started numerous print and web publications over a 30 year career, said outright that he would fire her. “Six months is long enough to figure out if she will work out, and she clearly isn’t. Attitude is important, and even if that changed at this late date, the damage has been done.”
All those managers worked on the same information you just read. But what really happened?
And now for the rest of the story….