Submitted by Chris Scott on
We have a independent contractor who has a great attitude and is trying really hard, but appears incapable of performing his duties. The position calls for a lot of writing, and he just can't do it. Without going into great detail, he really ought to be able, given his work history and advanced education.
When we brought him on, it was with the understanding and expectation that once he proved himself he would convert to employee status. I know that since he's an independent contractor we can let him go at any time. But, being a very high "I", I feel connected to the guy and hate to do this to him.
What's the best way to let him go? What can I say to him?
It's never easy
Just be direct. My suggestion:
"There is no easy way to say this. I am sorry, but we are going to have to let you go. Your performance is not to the level we had hoped."
I assume you have already provided appropriate feedback concerning the inadequacy of the deliverables, and have made attempts to get performance on par with expectations. I suggest you have another person in the office (HR, typically) when you have the meeting.
Have you had a chance to coach this direct? If you want to give it a try, we do have a lot of casts about coaching low performers and how to discuss performance with them. This might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but it might mean that you don’t have to let him go. I’ve included the links to our late stage coaching model below, as well as a cast on inheriting poor performers. There are really helpful tips in these casts on how to prepare to fire someone and how to discuss their performance.
I hope this helps,
Deal with the human first
In my experience I've found that dealing with the human first is the best approach. It's all too easy to get caught up in the 'task'. If the guy has a great attitude then well done! That's one thing that you can't teach people so is always the top of my tick list. In addition you can see that he's making a big effort - tick number two!
If the person has the credentials and the background then maybe something is just not quite okay with them right now. Spending some time connecting with him might uncover some current issue he's dealing with that's affecting his work performance. Taking him for a coffeee and saying something like:
"Hey Joe, I wanted to just take a bit of time to clarify where we are right now with you. I'm certain that you can deliver the goods but I'm thinking there might be some issue your experiencing right now that means you're not producing the great level of work that I'm certain you can do. I apologise if I'm speaking out of turn but is there anything going on with you that might be affecting your work? I'm here to support you and that's exactly what I want to do, it's in both our interests to get you performing at your best but I'm not sure you are at the moment and I want to know how I can help?"
He might be a bit shell shocked at that or he might be so grateful that he has the opportunity to discuss it. If you're able to uncover what the issue is and offer some support and maybe some helpful guidance, he may well resume his normal performance and at that point you've got yourself a top class employee - and on top of that he'll be unbelievably loyal given the support you provided.
I'd certainly try this first and it sounds like you're the type of person with a heart so clearly already a great leader! I'd be surprised if you aren't able to find a solution if the person really does have the right background. Letting someone go should always be the very last resort - especially in this situation.
If you don't find a solution then re post for advice on how to approach that tough conversation.