Knowing When You Need to Let Someone Go
Vol. 11 No. 4
You’ve had a wonderful holiday break—lots of quality time with family and friends, special meals and celebrations, and even a little quiet time to reflect on the events of the year. You feel very content and relaxed—except for one thought that’s nagging at you. “I’ve really got to do something about Dolores (or Bob).” The thought makes you anxious and sad at the same time, and you push it from your mind (at least for the moment). But eventually, you know you need to deal with the issue. Here are a few thoughts to help you start down the path that you know in your heart of hearts is necessary for all concerned.
They say it’s lonely at the top—and it is. You can and should certainly gather information and advice from your trusted lieutenants—but ultimately, the decision is the Head's to make. We suggest bringing to mind the person’s key accomplishments (and shortfalls) from the past year. Notice, we said “past year” not the “past 20 years.” If this is a long-serving employee, we know that you and your community honor and respect this individual’s many contributions to the life of the school over the course of his/her career. That isn’t at issue. What is at issue is, “Are they a good employee for our school today?”
Questions to Ask Yourself
If the answer to the question above is anything other than a resounding “Yes,” further questions you need to ask yourself are:
1. Have we clearly communicated to her where she is falling short of expectations?
?2. Have we given her the opportunity—and support—to re-attain performance expectations?
If the answer to these questions is “no,” ISM offers our writings and presentations on corrective action for your consideration. If the answer is “yes,” go on to the final question.
3. Has she improved to the point where we can confidently tell parents that students in her class are in the type of learning environment we promise them in our marketing materials?
Said more simply, a different version of the final question is, “Would I want my child in this teacher’s class?” It is really as simple—and as difficult—as that.
If the answer is yes, whenever possible we encourage you to redouble your coaching and mentoring efforts to help this teacher go from “satisfactory” to “outstanding.” We suspect, however, that the answer is probably “no”—or the question wouldn’t have been nagging at you all this while in the first place. In this case, we would direct you to your “HR” person (whether that be you the Business Manager, your HR Director, or an outside employment attorney). They will help you do what you need to do to help the teacher’s departure happen in the safest and most legally appropriate way.
Only the Head, however, can make the call. For the good of your students and the entire school community, we support and encourage you in making the tough calls. It is never easy—but if done for the right reasons and in the right way, we believe that it will enhance rather than diminish your school. Keep heart—it is a call you need to make.
Additional ISM resources of interest
The Human Resources Life Cycle: Safe and Effective Faculty Recruitment, Retention, and Dismissal Practices
ISM Monthly Update for Human Resources Vol. 11 No. 4 Ask Michael
ISM Monthly Update for Human Resources Vol. 8 No. 5 A School Firing Case That Cost $1.5 Million
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members
I&P Vol. 31 No. 7 Protect Your School With a Separation Agreement and General Release When Paying Severance