First try to ascertain whether the employee really lacks the skills necessary for the satisfactory performance of his or her duties, or whether another issue is negatively affecting his or her ability to perform. Often, when a manager assumes that someone cannot do a job for lack of skill, the real problem is actually centered on sloppiness. And sloppiness is almost always correctable.

If the problem is skill-oriented, decide whether or not there is something you or the company can do to improve the employee’s skills. Can a coworker help bring the employee up to speed? Would a professional seminar be worthwhile? Would studying a book or instructional software help?

Do the Employee’s Strengths Outweigh His or Her Weaknesses?

You also need to evaluate how important the deficient skill actually is within the performance scope of the particular job. Consider how strong the employee might be in other aspects of job performance. A shop floor manager, for instance, may be not be great at giving performance reviews but absolutely terrific at scheduling and maintaining production runs and inventory management.

Obviously, his or her strengths far outweigh the weaknesses in effectively carrying out the primary responsibilities of the job. It is often okay to have an employee with a serious weakness, as long as you are aware of the problem area and the employee compensates for one skill deficiency with strength in another area.

If, despite all considerations, you feel that an employee should not remain in the current position, think about moving him or her to another area or level of responsibility within the company.

There are two advantages to this strategy. First, because you already know where the employee’s strengths and weaknesses lie, you have a good idea of what capacity he or she might satisfactorily perform in—much more so than you would for a new employee, for instance. Second, it is demoralizing for other employees to see a coworker fired, especially if that employee was trying hard at the job.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Determine whether the issue is actually skill-related.
  • Evaluate how important the deficient skill is to the overall scope of the job.
  • Consider lateral moves or responsibility shifts before termination.