Lay Off Using Layoffs to Manage Poor Performing Employees
HR Advisor feature article | July 2009
With many employers seeing the business need to lay off employees during the past several months, it may be tempting for a manager to use it as a way to avoid confronting problem employees.
When conducting a formal layoff, however, employers would need to follow certain guidelines and be aware of specific state and federal laws. In general, employers are often better off taking the more appropriately accountable route of employment termination for cause using progressive discipline.
In turn, keep the following three points in mind:
- Eliminate the Position. A layoff involves eliminating positions and not people. Determine your business-essential positions, and your supporting documentation should demonstrate that a position to be eliminated is due to decreased work demands and / or financial reasons. If you want to get rid of a poor performing employee, then getting rid of that job position would likely be not in your best interest since the work still needs to be done.
- Select the Least Fit. For the eliminated position in question, identify all employees with similar job titles and roles. After reviewing the type of the work that still needs to be done, figure out which of the employees are the lesser qualified. After assessing the employees’ overall work experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities, pick the least qualified individual. If that individual happens to be the poor performing employee you initially had in mind, then you now would have a more solid basis to end the employment relationship with a layoff.
- Don’t Fill the Position. If an employer has a legitimate business reason to eliminate a job position, then there should be no need to bring back that position in the near future. Otherwise, the alleged layoff may be viewed as a veiled termination for cause which can cast questions on the company's true intentions and general integrity if ever challenged. The suggested rule of thumb is to not reopen the position for about a year.
In the bigger picture, if you are in Management, part of your direct responsibility is to effectively manage employee confrontations. Addressing employee performance problems through corrective action holds employees accountable for their behaviors and their outcomes. You can leverage various strategies to motivate employees to positively change their performance levels as well as to establish proof of your company’s good faith efforts to help all employees improve.
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