Earlier this year I had to do what is probably the toughest thing in my work life. I had to manage one of my directs out of his job because he just couldn’t do it.
So, it goes like this. Last year I had to hire someone for a managerial role running an ongoing research program. As chance would have it, a guy from another department had been made redundant but had a strong analytical background. We (my manager, his boss and me) thought we could take a chance on him – after all, analytical skills should carry across functions whether you’re counting widgets or understanding consumer sentiment, right?
While his differing perspective was refreshing at first, it didn’t take long to realize that he didn’t quite understand the fundamentals of his job. He was used to the black and white nature of measuring things like widgets and he failed to transfer this to measuring how a consumer feels.
The worst part was when he was scheduled to present to one of our regional offices. Charged with the responsibility of influencing their upcoming commercial plan, we thought it best to practice his presentation in front of us. After all, we would be tougher judges than the regional office would. That was when it hit. He was a dithering mess. He was unable to convey the basics of his job and lacked any sophistication or understanding in his delivery. After a couple of hours of practice, my boss decided that I was to go.
Soon after, he was tasked with compiling a few reports for publication to the broader Marketing team. Again, he failed. His draft was unintelligible, lacking any semblance of grammatical structure. This was the time when I had to start managing his performance. Everything had to be documented: the work I asked of him; the drafts he compiled; our exchange on his progress. In the end, he really wasn’t up to it. We eventually came to an agreement for him to leave and for us to promote his direct.
This was difficult because he had tried so hard and yet was never, ever going to succeed in this role. I saw his efforts but could never reward him for it. In the end, the Marketing Director said that it was my job to have the right people to deliver my part. If he wasn’t going to be a contributor, I would be worse for it. My job was to do my job – if my team drags me down, change the team.
This still bothers me today. I know he’s right but somehow it hurts when you make a decision about someone’s career.