For his first three years, Tom was a model employee. You were convinced you had made a perfect hire as you watched him crank out work product, impress clients and inspire the team. You could depend on Tom and saw a bright future for him.
For the past year, though, you have noticed a significant decline in the quality of his work. He has been argumentative with clients and employees who used to fight to be on his project teams, now fight to get reassigned to other projects. Any other project…
You are puzzled how this happened. A year ago when you first noticed Tom’s declining performance, you addressed it with him almost immediately. During a series of conversations, you offered constructive criticism, set realistic goals for him and asked for his thoughts/suggestions. A brainstorming session with your boss and the HR Manager yielded several additional ideas which you have tried to no avail. While being careful not to cross any privacy boundaries, you looked for any non-work related root causes, but still came up empty.
So you need to decide if Tom’s drop in performance is a temporary setback or a sign of what to expect in the future. Are you OK settling with Tom’s performance on a go forward basis or is it perhaps time to part ways? Following are some questions you may want to consider.
A peer to peer comparison can help you calibrate your expectations for Tom. If his declining performance is still at or above his peers, you might be asking too much of him. On the other hand, if his performance is now below his peers, your expectations are probably realistic.
While you may be frustrated with Tom’s performance, exiting him from the organization may not be the best answer. How “in demand” are Tom’s skills? Would it be relatively easy to find an acceptable replacement? How does his compensation compare with others who have similar skills?
This is a key question that tends to elicit a reaction somewhere between a shrug of the shoulders to nuclear meltdown. Where your reaction is on this continuum should be a factor in your “parting of the ways” consideration. Outside of his core role, what other contributions does Tom make? Who would take over those responsibilities in his absence?
Keep in mind that moving to another organization might be in Tom’s best interest. If Tom has hit a brick wall and does not feel motivated, moving to another company might get him what is missing in his current role. We all spend tons of hours in the workplace. It shouldn’t all be an uphill swim.
It is important that throughout this process you don’t go it alone. Be sure to take advantage of advice and resources that your HR team can provide you. Your boss should be able to help as well. Just keep in mind that confidentiality is key. If you decide to stick it out with Tom, you wouldn’t want it getting back to him that you were considering a parting of the ways.