Giving up on employees only hurts your business

I’ve seen people leave a company and their manager says things like,"It wasn’t a big deal they left." "We wanted them to leave." "We managed them out." "They weren’t a great performer." I’ve seen managers give employees bad reviews without a clear plan for their recovery. I’ve seen managers give low bonuses to "send a message." Then, their passive-aggressive behavior creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure — and fosters an environment where employees feel unsafe — resulting in low levels of productivity and a constant fear of "being next."

Why does it matter? Job security, employee trust and an expectation for candid, constructive feedback are all at the top of what employees say they need to succeed.

In fact, respectful treatment beats out compensation as a motivating factor.

A safe, candid environment doesn’t come from employees — it comes from leaders. While there is a time to let employees go, you’ll save time, resources and great people if you tackle communication problems first. Don’t manage employees out. Help them grow into the employees you need.

Let’s say you have someone who’s underperforming. You could withhold bonuses, informally demote him or just manage him out. That does not fix the problem — either you’re stuck with someone who hates his job, or you’ve got an empty seat to fill. A better solution is to help that person grow to fit the role — you may be surprised how much some people are capable of changing.

If you want someone to meet expectations, his baseline has to be feeling safe at work. That means freedom from passive-aggression and pointless punishment, but above all it means reciprocity. This person is working to help you look good and succeed — he has to know that you’re doing the same for him.

1. Be direct. If you are annoyed or disappointed by something, take it head on. Calm yourself down, organize your thoughts, think of how you also have contributed to the issue and address it proactively. Take the person for lunch or coffee. Let her know that there’s a problem, but that your concern comes from a good place. Be clear that you will work to fix it — together.

2. Make your expectations clear. Part of feeling safe is knowing where you stand. Whether you’re satisfied with or disappointed by performance, let employees know specifically why, while making sure they know they are safe. If you don’t communicate your expectations, you can’t expect anyone to live up to them.

3. Have an open dialogue. If your team never challenges your ideas or thinking, chances are they do not feel safe enough to do so. You’re setting the tone and standard for the team, but make sure your people know that their ideas are valued and, in fact, necessary for the success of your organization. Come to tough conversations with a game plan on fixing the problem, but be sure to make your team members part of the discussion.

4. Provide a parachute. If they’re unable to accept the challenge of changing, provide them a safe way to exit with dignity, support and a generous severance. If you’ve fostered a trusting environment, then you can have this conversation openly rather than having the person "secretly" looking for a new job or letting it get to the point where you have to let them go more abruptly.

5. Avoid the sideshow. Don’t drive a wedge between your staff. Don’t be part of the gossip. When people have issues with each other, get them in the room and talk it out. Do not allow yourself to be a part of negative conversations about other employees on or off the team.