Delayed Terminations Hemorrhage Dollars in Business and at Work


In its cover story this week, Time Magazine addresses how difficult it is to fire a bad teacher. With my business owner’s hat on, my focus is on the bottom-line impact of the story:

2011 Study on poorly performing teachers

With my HR practitioner’s hat on, I’ve experienced my share of bad teachers whose performance rose to the level of termination, especially as a high school student in New York state. Like the teacher during my high school years who blatantly slept with not just one but two of my naive classmates (and there were probably more before and after my high school tenure; and probably, with my adult’s retrospect, under the age of consent). Each girl would hang on each of his arms as he walked through the halls of our school, unashamed and unchecked. Or the science teacher who on a daily basis bullied and taunted one of my classmates for his own amusement – even a voluntary visit by me in my senior year to the Assistant Principal’s office challenging this teacher’s inappropriate behavior yielded no action and no change – due, I suspect, to the tenure standards that do not hold teachers and school administrators consistently and adequately accountable for their misconduct – contrary to the employee performance-standards paradigm in other employment sectors.

In my experience as a parent, I have also witnessed poor teacher performance, mostly by teachers who don’t follow their own state-mandated rules to protect their students, shirking their stewardship responsibilities to our children.

While the Time Magazine article highlighted the bottom-line impact of delayed terminations in public education, delaying terminations for performance in other sectors most certainly has the same bottom-line negative impact. Performance issues that cost an organization bottom-line dollars include but are not limited to:

  • Poor customer service (in our social media age of instantaneous customer complaints in reaction to poor service, a reputation and sales killer);
  • Theft of company time by falsifying time sheets;
  • Consistent failure to work scheduled hours – I often hear “they’re a great employee when they show up to work.”  Not working scheduled hours is poor performance, e.g. not showing up;
  • Illegal behavior, such as harassment, discrimination, theft, etc.;
  • Negatively impacting the morale and productivity of their colleague employees by letting the poor performer malinger, unchecked.

Second only to delaying terminations is delaying disciplinary write-ups for employees who fail to perform in the areas of their job responsibilities or adhering to policy.  FYI, when employers challenge unemployment benefits for an employee who is terminated for cause in the state of New York, the state always asks if the employee received one last final written warning before termination; as well as a written termination specifically outlining the reasons for the termination. For this and other reasons (e.g., treating employees consistently in an employer’s disciplinary due process, to avoid discrimination claims) falling back on NYS employment-at-will when there are no prior write-ups in the file to justify an employee’s termination can potentially be a costly strategy negatively impacting the employer’s bottom-line. The HR geek’s mantra resonates in this scenario:  if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.

How will you ensure that your progressive discipline and termination processes avoid hemorrhaging dollars for your organization this week and beyond, in business and at work?

Bleeding Dollar Sign

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