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Submitted by Antonez on


Request for the forum: suggestions whether to let this staff go, or is there a way to coach her to "get it"?

I've been struggling with this one staff who is very passionate about her job, loves our company, and works hard.  However, all of her work over the past six months just isn't "good enough".  She has been in the role a little less than one year.  I'll explain in more detail below:


Job requirements (simplified):

- Understand the consumers in our country (we are a FMCG company)

- Develop brand marketing strategies for her product in our country

- Sell-in/ Align those strategies with the regional brand director (her dotted line boss)

- Execute those strategies through functional teams on a quarterly/ annual basis (budget sits with my team)



- Has improved with her understanding of consumers over the past few months (after some feedback, coaching to specifically focus in this area)

- Struggles with developing brand marketing strategies (on her own) and subsequently struggles selling in "sub par" strategies

- Does well with execution after strategies are aligned

- I have 10 direct reports, and find myself spending a lot of time helping her develop those strategies (directly disobeying your solid feedback of spend your time with the top 20% performers)

- She has improved with feedback on her communication skills when selling in her plans, but fundamentally her plans get attacked (she has formed a bit of a reputation as having weak plans, so the regional brand director as well as functional teams are looking for ways to shoot holes in her plan)

- Her dotted line boss also has issues with her and has identified her as the lowest performing country product brand manager of the five countries in the region


My inclination: Let her go (there is not another suitable position in the org at this time to transfer her into)

- My uneasiness comes from: I have let people go for gross negligence, bad attitudes (and performance), and other more "clear cut" reasons.  However, I have never had an eager, driven low performer

- I'm still questioning whether I have done enough (she is currently on a 90-day performance improvement plan to improve her consumer insights and strategy development; she is completing the tasks but not at a high level)


I'm not sure I'm providing enough details for this situation, because I'm too close and relatively emotionally involved in this case.  I really appreciate her passion and energy, but realize this performance cannot go on.  For anyone who has dealt with this in past successfully, I would be grateful to hear how you coached your staff and/ or resolved the situation.


mfculbert's picture


I appreciate that you are facing a very difficult decision here. It sound like you have been very clear and communicated the situation to your direct. You have set goals and although she has tried to meet them it is not going well. I would send you back to Drucker's "Effective Executive."  Knowledge workers are only successful if they are effective. This direct is not being effective.

You now need to decide what your company values and how you move forward. Some companies are content to have less than stellar workers. Other companies only tolerate the best of the best. If you do decide to let her go, how will you go about it? How can you take care of the company's needs while being as supportive of her transition as you can be.

Good luck. These are tough decisions

ChrisH__'s picture

Let her go. Be nice about it and offer generous severance if you can.

Great employees need to be both a technical and cultural fit for your company.

If someone is incompetent for the job, and is rude/unpleasant, it is fairly easy to let them go. The case that you are facing, however, is the more uncomfortable one - the employee is a cultural fit, but not a technical fit.

I think you have to have to look at this from the company perspective - would the company's money be better spent on someone who is more competent for the job?

You may not see it as a manager if you are emotionally invested in all this, but keeping on an under-performing employee, just because they are a nice, eager and well-meaning person, sends a message to the rest of the company about your approach to management and it might appear that you are not comfortable with taking tough decisions.