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Mr A has almost one year of experience with us now. He joined as a 'fresher' (unexperienced).
The problem is he does not have his concepts clear, so we have asked him to take part in various training courses on Saturday and sometimes on Sunday. He demonstrates a lack of interest in the suggested training and does not attend this training regularly. The training is being provided by our senior managers and we are investing our time and money into this employee that way.

We expect him to work hard so that he comes to a level where he can start giving results. He is not ready for complex tasks. He is argumentative with his manager and tries to prove he is right when told his work is incorrect.

Is there an alternative to firing this worker? What might the consequences be if he is fired for the remainder of the staff?

closed as primarily opinion-based by IDrinkandIKnowThings, squeemish, acolyte, happybuddha, Rhys Jun 29 '13 at 13:26

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 55
    So you're telling the employee to not only work during the regular work weeks, but also spend a large portion at least of some weekends on work? Is regular weekend work a part of the contract? Have you considered the possible effects this could have on his work morale? – a CVn Jun 28 '13 at 7:43
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    @user5377 "can you tell me what is 'work morale'?" LOL brilliant, good luck with keeping staff. – NimChimpsky Jun 28 '13 at 10:14
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    If dates are relaxed, then why can't this training happen in normal office hours? And if you want to fire him, there is a contract with terms in it you just need to follow. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jun 28 '13 at 10:43
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    If the employee is not showing up for training and he is being paid to go to the training, then fire him, for not showing up to work. If he is not meeting your expectations then get rid of the employee. If he is working 40 hous before the weekend, your expectations of him working on the weekend, is unrealistic unless he is being compensated. Even then I strongly suggest you find time during those 40 hours to train him. – Donald Jun 28 '13 at 10:51
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    Sounds like you're expecting him to work seven days a week (yes, mandatory training is work, not "something fun an extra the person should willingly do"). Based on the information provided, I would quit that job before you ever had a chance to fire me. – asteri Jun 28 '13 at 14:34

10 Answers 10

92

OK, let go through this point by point:

Mr A is almost one year experience now. He joined as fresher.

So this person has come in with no experience.

The problem is he is not having his concepts clear, so we have asked him to go under various trainings

OK, but how much training was given up front? Depending on what you do I would expect some ramp up time on technologies AND the code base AND the business domain. Even an experienced developer can take 6 months+ before becoming productive if the area is complicated.

on Saturday and even sometime on Sunday

How many hours is this person doing normally? if they're on the backfoot as they aren't seen to be coping (as sounds like the case), they'll likely be putting in all hours to try to keep up, and you want them to use their rest/family time for more?

But he is not taking interest in trainings too. he is not coming for training regularly

Have you discussed this with him? maybe he has kids to look after (maybe he slept in after pulling several long weeks)?

The training is being provided by our senior managers and we are investing our time and money in that.

hmm, this sounds like being sent to your head teacher for punishment, doubt I'd be interested myself.

We are expecting him to work hard so that he come to certain level by which he can start producing results

So, you need to prioritise his training over production work. make sure he is up to speed on the important things he needs (in office time).

You then need to get him one of your senior engineers as a mentor. Your new-be should be working as an extension to this senior, so he gets a change to see the codebase, find out the gotchas, and have his work reviewed as he works. Pick someone with an easy going nature, who's high velocity (but not on the critical path), with enough knowledge to pick up tasks anywhere in the code (and ensure they work over a wide area).

I would write off the forced training done, look to spend 6 months doing this. You should be able to judge if it's a benefit within 2-3 months. During this time talk to your senior, find out what they think, and judge from there, maybe the guy isn't up to it, but you only get results if you invest in your staff.

  • 33
    +1. I created an account just to up vote this answer. The other answers just make me sad – Shantnu Tiwari Jun 28 '13 at 10:28
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    @Mark Chapman, I think you are too optimistic about that guy, because it is more likely that the guy simply doesn't take it serious or doesn't know how to put effort into something. If he knows he needs the training (he would better know that), he could at least try to negotiate the hours if that's a problem. Though I hope you're right and everything can be settled with a proper attitude from the employees. – superM Jun 28 '13 at 10:52
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    @Shantnu Tiwari - I'm honoured, also amazed by how the general feeling seems to be to can this person. No wonder places just want experienced people, doesn't look like they feel they can cope with training up someone new. I'm sure the OP is trying to avoid that situation themselves, the fact they are asking on a forum like this is a positive, and they probably felt they were doing all they could, but it's about how you do it, not just what you do that counts – The Wandering Dev Manager Jun 28 '13 at 10:53
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    In general I would say that if after a year a company is not happy with an employee, the company should not extend the contract. In this specific case, one could argue that the owners of the company have unrealistic expectations (having young kids, I would not be comfortable with working 60 hours). But apart from the wiseness of letting people work for 60 hours and in weekends, this is the prerogative of the business owner. Hopefully the employee knew what he was getting into. – Paul Hiemstra Jun 28 '13 at 11:33
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    @SuperM I think you overestimate the confident a fresher has to negotiate anything with his employer. – corsiKa Jun 28 '13 at 18:09
26

Unless it was specified in the contract, I don't think you should expect someone to work on a weekend, we all need our rest and to spend some time with our families, friends and even just slouching on the couch doing nothing. People are not machines.

If he needs further training it needs to be provided for him during the working week.

That said, if you are unhappy with the performance you need to have a talk with this person explaining clearly the expectations, current results and also consequences of failing to meet the expectations from now on.

After that, if this person cannot meet the expectations until an agreed time (you need to make it as clear as possible), you should fire him.

I am really against keeping people at work when they don't fit, just because management feels bad. It is not fair for the company, other workers who are meeting expectations and the discussed employee.

  • +1, especially for the first paragraph. Just make sure the time "agreed" upon is agreed upon mutually and realistic - you can't just say "You manage this until next Monday or you're fired" – Tobias Kienzler Jun 29 '13 at 6:26
12

Completing tasks is typically dependent on three conditions being met:

  1. Resources are available to meet the demands
  2. There is sufficient knowledge to perform the task
  3. Your employee is motivated to 'work hard'

It seems that your employee does have enough resources to complete the task (i.e. is not bogged down with several other tasks). While it may not be an issue in your specific case it could be that the technology infrastructure slows them down or there are delays in their work that you are not aware of. If they do not meet the deadlines they have agreed, can they explain the delays?

You mention that you have 'offered' training at the weekend (with an implicit expectation that they do so), and you have also made it clear to them that this comes with a cost attached to it.

Training for the most part should only be during work hours, especially when it is essentially mandatory (and even more so for a junior member of the team). Also, training is subjective - what works amazingly well for one person might not sink in at all for others: if the training is not in line with the way they learn best they will become bored of it quickly, and what incentive is there for coming into training in your personal time when it doesn't click or have a quickly demonstrable gain?

Motivationally-speaking, there seems to be negative reinforcement rather than positive when discussing timelines and project delays with this employee (which would naturally result in them becoming defensive and arguing with managers). Working in a buddy system can be a good way to monitor their work and also engage them more in the daily tasks through collaborative teamwork.

Ultimately if the only solution you present to someone who is challenged by their work is to come in, unpaid, on their precious weekends then a serious review of your training practices is needed.

  • I absolutely hate this question but this answer is actually constructive in figuring out what the problem is and addressing it. Kudos for that. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 28 '13 at 17:13
7

Shall we fire him ?

That's your decision, not anyone else's, and it sounds like you're not taking it lightly, which is a good thing.

is there any alternative -last option before firing him?

You should ensure

  1. he understands explicitly that he is performing badly;
  2. he has an opportunity to discuss; and
  3. he has the opportunity to show he can improve, with appropriate support.

I'd emphasize point 1 because from your post it isn't clear that you have told him explicitly and in detail how his performance isn't good enough; you've only said you've asked him to take extra time to undergo training and are expecting him to work hard. You need to make your expectations very clear, and also how near or far he is to meeting them.

In the UK where I work there are legal hoops that have to be jumped through. Essentially you give the person a series of warnings about their bad performance, together with appropriate training, and if after three warnings the employee has not improved, you can fire them. This isn't the place to advise on legal issues (although you should have your legal position clear). The point I wanted to make was that some time ago I was very struck by an entrepreneur saying how he had wished he could just have fired several unproductive employees, but was forced to go through the process of giving them warnings. He said at the end of the process, he did fire some of them, but some of them were retained, improved their performance and several years on are good performers. So he was glad he had gone through the procedures of formal warnings.

We feel bad firing somebody

It shouldn't feel good. Bear in mind, however, that there if you fire Mr A and hire Ms B, Ms B might be just as deserving of the position in human terms as Mr A. Moreover Mr A may go onto find something he is better at, or go onto improve his performance in general, which is better for him in the long run.

How will our decision affect other coworkers?

Some time ago I was a manager and I expected good performance. I imagined that my reports would be upset about that, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that after I stopped being a manager I am still friends with many of them.

More recently I have had the experience of working in a team where one team member was performing badly, and very little was done about it. As someone who performed well I found that very demoralizing. I have talked with friends and colleagues who say the same thing: if a team member is performing badly, it is demotivating for those who want to do well. On the other hand, if one of my colleagues were fired, I'd want to know that they'd had a clear warning about their performance and been given a chance to fix whatever was broken.

6

I'm not going to make a judgement call that the manager of the team MUST make. But here's the premises for how to make that sort of decision.

When to Fire

The bottom line is, if after a "reasonable" amount of time, feedback and resources are available to learn, if the person can't come up to speed in the same time frame that most of his collegues can, then he should be fired.

For most jobs, there's a known length of time for a learning curve. In my experience, a year is on the long side - valid in some extremely complex jobs, environments and organizations, but 3-6 months is often the norm for many engineering positions working with standard technology in a standard way with a typical culture.

Another big catch is that many companies may have a probation period - if there's serious issues with a new hire, don't let it lag past the probation period - it's there specifically give you the option to get rid of a bad hiring choice without the tremendous overhead of most corporate hiring processes.

What to Do Before Firing

#1 thing - Give feedback

It is no fun. No one likes to say negative stuff. But the most ethical thing (and often required by HR process) is to alert the employee that there is a problem with performance. It makes sense.

Think of the case in point - without feedback, there are two options to the other guy's side of this story. From his point of view:

Option 1 (no feedback) - I've been working hard for this company, doing my thing, getting it right. They came and asked me to take training on Saturdays and Sundays with Senior Management. They must really think I'm a rockstar. I'll continue to crank away, but these optional meetings don't really fit with my family obligations, so I'm grumpy (or will say no). They really should be more considerate of the needs of top performers.

Option 2 (with feedback) - Eesh, I hadn't realized my job was in jeopardy! I thought I was getting it, but my manager just said that I"m missing major concepts and he gave me 3 examples where I created a pretty big mess. I think this weekend training is the only way to catch up, and I hope I don't act like a jerk with senior management. I'll make the time and be thankful for the extra chance.

The difference here is that the guy is aware that he's messing up.

Also...

It's best to give direct guidance on what it will take to correct the situation and how this can be demonstrated and measured. Examples of problems, and what needed to happen better are good. Anything clear and unambiguous. But be careful to say "if you do this, it'll let you keep your job" unless that's true. It's easy to get into that case - for example, being reliably on time to work is a must have in most environments for good job performance. But it's not the ONLY qualification. You have actually do your job as well. Just sitting there, drooling, isn't going to save a job.

In many environments, there's a "probation" cycle of:

  • feedback
  • plan of action to improve
  • execution of better job performance action plan
  • yes/no decision

In a big company, this can be very formalized.

In most hard jobs, there's not a very, very clear plan of action. If you have a wrote procedure, then it's pretty clear - which is why safety violations, for example, can involve immediate firing - they are intentionally clear, unambiguous, and specific.

But in knowledge work "think harder" is not meaningful advice. So a plan of action is often worked out jointly. The manager says "I need more of X or less of Y" and the employee says "I could do that this way or that way, but I need A or B". It can't be ultimately the employee's choice, because there are finite demands. But where it's possible, the process of getting from bad to good is something the employee can and should give input on.

Consequences on Staff

I've been through some pretty bad layoffs, and I can honestly say, I think it's harder on the manager than on the staff. Looking into someone's eye and saying "you're not good enough to work here" - is the worst part.

Staff reactions will vary by person and predicament. But in a rightful hiring, they are usually:

  • (Most) - phew, the troublemaker is gone, we can get back to work! Most people who like the job and know what good work is (they know, because they do it), will know that this person is not getting the job done. Usually knowing that their bosses won't ask them to pick up the slack and allow the problem to continue is a relief to most. Particularly if they know there was a reasonably fair process.

  • (Some) - Oh no!! Am I next??? Those that didn't get why this person was a poor perfomer will ask. Often it helps to out line what you expect "if you X, Y and Z in a reasonable time frame, we're good". Stay out of what the problem person did, stick to your own expectations and clarifying if the other employees are meeting them in your opinion. Back to feedback - good or bad, people need it.

  • (A few) - The totalitarian dictators are opressing us! Yeah. There will be a few who hate that anyone was fired. My experience is that they won't raise it to management, they will raise it with peers. The big question is - OK, if he stayed, someone was going to pick up the slack... given that you wanted him to be employeed here, would you have been willing to do your work and his? This isn't as crazy as it sounds. Once and a great while, the answer is "yes" and some interesting discussions can ensue.

Worse yet, is the opposing issue - collect too many non-performers, and you create a retention issue. If you have a now-experienced person who wanders around clueless on concepts, then when new people come, he will be their impression of a standard employee. That's worse for morale than the momentary pain of firing the real problem.

2

Look, a job is NOT a social institution. It is not granted on basis of "opportunities out there" It is about doing work, and get salary if done right.

Certainly if you are the owner of the business, you are allowed to throw your money away as you see fit, including burn it in campfire or give out as charity. But if it's not the case, and you are, in your job, responsible for good use of resources, including salary budget, it is your responsibility to either make the guy work up or get rid of him. ASAP.

From the description it seem you already passed the "put on improvement plan" part and it didn't work. So the next logical step is to offer some agreement terms on leaving. And if rejected proceed by regular or special form of termination.

I always consider mutual agreement the best form, if unprofessional conduct applies to the situation the more chances you have to make it work as a better choice for the other party.

As for coworkers, sending off people is certainly not a regular morale boost, but if the guy was actually bad and worked in teal, the coworkers who actually did the job will be happy. As doing others work while they sit back and just get the money is even more drag.

If reasons are not obvious it may be a good idea explaining all the reasons and especially addressing that it's not part of some downsizing, and the vent is tied to personal performance, not to be extrapolated to anyone else. Also good idea to announce that replacement is getting hired (if so), maybe even ask the team's help to find someone usable.

  • 1
    @bharal: did you actually read the text? Yes, I would fire the guy after the "improvement plan" route got exhausted. From OPs description it's moot issue, I assume it was, others assume it was not -- but we all are just speculating. The rest you write is even more speculation based on just keyword match on keyword "weekend". – Balog Pal Jun 28 '13 at 13:14
  • Yes, i read the text. If you buy a city bike and take it on a mountain trail ride, it won't work. If you try and fix it by adding the oil it still won't work. Translation: if the company is misutilising the employee AND their solution to training is flawed, it isn't an indictment on the employee. In fact, it is an indictment on the company - and they should be able to see that they've done something wrong and remedy it. – bharal Jun 28 '13 at 13:48
  • Or if the city bike turned out suboptimal in the mountains maybe it's time to face the situation and replace it with an actual mountain bike instead of trying to patch it while riding. If the company is not up to the task of training, then it better hire already-trained personnel and do its primary business. And I could write a hundred more speculative IFs in the next hour, each likely as far from the truth as any other. – Balog Pal Jun 28 '13 at 14:40
1

I won't get into all the more minor details of your plan to salvage the situation, that's been covered pretty well.

However, I will say that I have managed quite a number of people. I have NEVER been in a situation where I was questioning in my head whether I should fire someone, then tried to make it work and didn't regret it. Trust your gut, don't prolong your misery.

I know where your head is at. You like the person. You think you just need to give them a little more motivation, or training, or something. But trust me, an unmotivated person who is under-performing is not a project worth your time that you could better spend motivating your star players.

Plus, if you know the guy isn't working out you can bet your team does too. It is much more demoralizing for them to be working hard and seeing you coddle (try to save) an under-performer.

Spend your time on your TOP performers, not fixing the underperformers. The ROI is much better.

-1

If you are unhappy with an employee, and there is no sign of improvement, I would decide to let that person go. I assume that the employee does not have a permanent contract. Therefore, I would discuss his (lack of) performance during the yearly (?) performance meeting, and simply not prolong his contract. This is under the assumption that you warned the employee during the year that his performance needed to improve, although not prolonging a contract can be decided unilaterally by the employer. If this person has a permanent contract, you'll have more problems getting rid of them.

If he/she is not productive, and not making an effort to get up-to-speed, it is better to part ways. In general, this should have no adverse effect on other people, as it is Mr. A's performance that is lacking, not their own.

  • Even with a contract if he is not meeting expecatation and is late to required training that is grounds to be let go from almost any work environment. – Donald Jun 28 '13 at 10:55
  • But with a permanent contract, it is harder to get rid of someone from a legal standpoint. You need to be able to show a judge that the person was really under performing. With a temporary contract you can simply let the contract expire. – Paul Hiemstra Jun 28 '13 at 11:22
-1

I've always thought that a problem is a chance to do your best. From your question it's clear that your employee does not understand that he has problems (i.e. might be fired). Why won't you let him know it and see if he is able to be more productive? In a case it appears that employee was doing his best it means he is not in a good fit for his current position and further explanations would not be required. If his performance will be improved everybody is going to be happy.

The trickiest part here is how to let him know about it. I don't know if this is the best way of doing this but personally I'd send him on leave without salary for 2-4 weeks (depending on company needs) and tell him that when returns he should take some exams (related to work, of course) and the results will affect his position. You can identify if it worth to continue working with this employee depending on exam results.

  • 1
    How can you send someone on leave without salary? If that is not in the employment contract, you can't just stop paying someone. – sleske Jun 28 '13 at 10:01
  • @sleske This is giving a second chance. I'd say something similar: We think you might not progressed well enough but we might be mistaken so we've decided to give you some time off and give you possibility to prove that we're wrong. If you are against than you don't seem to be fit with our needs. – Leri Jun 28 '13 at 10:14
  • @PLB - Your first insinct often is correct. Why give somebody unpaid leave, it still costs you money, if somebody is not working out get rid of that person. Its business, time is money, its hardly personal. – Donald Jun 28 '13 at 10:56
  • @Ramhound OP wants to avoid direct firing and wants to be sure they've done everything possible to make him/her productive. – Leri Jun 28 '13 at 11:25
-1

You providing him an environment that encourages learning but if he isn't trying to develop himself then that is a fault of his own. I think that you should discuss his performance with him. Important point to discuss might be:

1)What is he having problems with?
2)Why is he having problems with it? 
3)How can you help remove some of the obstacles to encourage learning?

If he is still not ready to learn anything and is not cooperating with the company then you should have a meeting with your manager and discuss Mr.A's performance. If all are in agreement then you can terminate his employment. but don't fire him without discussing his problem with him.

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