When should you let a loyal employee go?

June 6, 2011

Loyalty Employee

If a loyal employee is no longer contributing in a meaningful way—not because of lack of effort, but because of an inability to adapt to a new direction or new methods—the leader will try training, coaching, mentoring, or stretching assignments. If those fail to work, the leader has two choices: keep the loyal employee and work around that person’s ineffectiveness or let the loyal employee go. It’s one of the toughest decisions leaders face. And it’s probably why many leaders stall.

Yes, firing a loyal employee will have consequences to morale and culture. But working around an ineffective employee will have consequences to morale and culture, too. More productive workers will wonder when or if you’re able to make tough decisions. They may question why they need to adapt and work so hard. They may lose respect for you.

Most decisions within an organization are easy and straightforward. Many leaders want to make those and argue how important it is that they make those for as long as you will listen. But leaders and organizations are defined by the tough decisions they make (or fail to make).

Don’t stall. Examine the tradeoffs thoroughly—both to the loyal employee and the organization as a whole—and come to a decision. Provided you make tough decisions fairly and respectfully, you will build engagement, alignment, and accountability within your organization.

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