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I'm a supervisor in a big company in Europe. One of my team members is a contractor, and unfortunately she is not performing well.

After giving her a bit more than 1 year to get up to speed and learn the technology/domain, last month I shared with her that her performance is not meeting the expectations. Although she has shown some improvements in the last month (after our discussion), she also displayed signs of not being capable to "get there". Therefore, I'm seriously considering of letting her go.

Nevertheless, we agreed to sit together once per month, hence next week I'm going to share with her the latest feedback, which unfortunately is not positive. I won't mention the "firing idea" as I want to wait another month before taking a decision, since we invested quite a bit in her.

At the same time, she is recently going through some family issue (a family member is on the brink of their health), and next month she will travel far away to visit her family (taking a couple of weeks off, and the other couple of weeks she will work remotely).
Please note that this family issue is not impacting her performance, as it happened just few days ago.

This is the first "conflict" in my mind, since I would need to tell her that she is not doing well while she is also dealing with the personal issues noted above.

Moreover, assuming that unfortunately she will not be able to meet the expectations (I'm 99% sure), my idea was to sit together next month and share with her the decision of letting her go. However, sharing this negative news just before she goes to her family would be quite cruel on a personal level. At the same time, waiting another month (after she is back) could still be cruel (depending on how it went there), but it will also impact the business even more.

Any advice? How did you manage a similar situation?

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    We cannot tell you what to do, but also there is always excuse to not rip the band aid off. Seems like this was long time coming, and you've sunk fallacied yourself away from something that should've been done months ago.
    – Aida Paul
    Feb 2 at 12:20
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    Sometimes, you've just got to do what a manager's got to do even if it is not a fun thing to do... Feb 2 at 13:10
  • Do you think that suppose she does not have a family member with a serious health issue, she could improve faster ? Or does she not have the will and the capacity to improve regardless of her family situation ? Feb 2 at 13:47
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    She's a contractor who's not performing so you terminate her, quite simple really. Everything else is just noise (and I sday that as a contractor myself!).
    – deep64blue
    Feb 2 at 20:45

2 Answers 2

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What would you do from a pure business perspective, if you knew nothing about them or their private life?

That is what you need to do. You are running a business.

Now, as a business, at least in civilized societies, you do have a responsibility for your employees. This is written into laws, probably as protections like notice periods, unemployment payments, healthcare payments, pensions and more.

But this is a contractor, a mercenary. Not your employee, not a long term partnership. You don't owe them anything. Personally, I already saw a red flag when you said you "invested" in them. You don't invest in contractors. In a solid business you invest in employees. But not in contractors. They either make you money, or they don't. And then they need to go. That is why you hired a contractor, not an employee.

Now, that doesn't mean you have to be as cold as possible, you certainly don't need to fire them on their last day before going out or their first day coming back in and I would think it certainly bad style to fire them while away. Especially as contractors get paid for work, so you don't lose any money while they aren't there. But if you have a scheduled monthly meeting where you told them they need to improve, then firing them at one if they didn't is just normal business.

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    The idea is that a contractor makes a lot more money than an employee, in exchange for things like holidays, sick pay, protection from unemployment and so on. So she should cost more for each day she works, but other than paying her (high) daily rate you have no obligation
    – gnasher729
    Feb 2 at 23:28
  • Would you be soul-searching before terminating a contract with another business, if it wasn't doing what you needed?  No, of course not.  But that's what's being considered here, too — just that it's a business with a single employee.  As mentioned, contract rates should already allow for situations like this; it's not really comparable to an employee relationship.
    – gidds
    Feb 4 at 0:41
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    All this talk of firing does not make sense to me. You dont fire a contract worker. You just dont renew the contract. You first need an actual job to be fired from.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 4 at 15:17
  • @NeilMeyer Why would you wait (and pay) till the contract runs out? It certainly has clauses for one-sided, premature termination, all of them do. Where I come from, if your contract is ended prematurely, that is called "being fired", doesn't matter if it happens to an employee or contractor.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 4 at 19:06
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Now, I understand that her family issues do not impact her performance. You have already given her 1 year to improve and she still does not meet the requirement.

In this case, it seems that you have pretty much come to the final decision that is to let her go, and the only thing to decide is: When to deliver the bad news to her ?

My answer is that perhaps, you can probably check with your manager to see when is the time to deliver the bad news to her.

You may feel better with your manager's input on your side.


Unfortunately, there is no good way to deliver the bad news. We are all sorry when our coworkers' family members have critical health issues, and wish them the best.

Maybe, when you deliver the bad news to her, you could tell her that you wish her family member well or get well soon.


Note: My previous answer was based on the fact that I did not understand that her family issues do not impact her performance one way or another. So, I've deleted that old answer, which you still can review in the edit history.

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    The individual is a contractor. A PIP seems inappropriate. Time to cut the handcuffs of and determine if they will or will not work out and make a decision to keep them or take the exit clause in the contract
    – Donald
    Feb 2 at 15:56
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    A contractor is paid a lot more per day than an employee. Giving a contractor such a high rate while telling them they need to improve doesn’t make any sense. And if this was in the UK a PIP would be a 100% proof that she is like an employee, with possible massive tax implications. Starting with having to pay 13.8% national insurance on her daily rate.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 2 at 23:32

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