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Termination:  The Final Step of Accountability

Contributor: Brian Nolan, NCG Managing Partner & Senior Business Coach

Do you have an employee on your team whose performance is not where you need it to be? Most businesses we work with do.  You probably find yourself talking about this employee a lot.  You continually wrestle with the questions:  

Should I terminate this person? There may be no clear violation, but their performance is just not acceptable.  Many times leaders either move right to termination or, just live with the sub-par performance.  We live with it because of a scarcity mentality.

 If I let this employee go, how will I find their replacement? This leads us to avoid crucial conversations and from providing the employee with the important feedback they need to improve.  

While termination of an underperforming employee may be necessary, the action should only be taken as the final step, not the first step of accountability.  Many times the employee doesn’t even know you are talking about them or considering cutting them loose.  Managers have a responsibility to provide clarity and direction. We owe it to the employee to let them know where they stand and what they need to do to turn it around. Give them constructive feedback and confidence to know you want them to succeed.

Defining The Plan

The first steps of feedback should be basic verbal redirects – simply pointing out areas for the employee to improve upon in the moment. You’ll want to document these comments in the employee’s personnel file to note the timelines. After several verbal redirects, it’s time to get more formal – Create a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

The purpose of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is to define performance deficiencies, clarify performance expectations, and provide the employee an opportunity to demonstrate the ability to meet the performance expectations.  To facilitate sustained improvement and define what success looks like, use this template to begin building your PIP:   

♦ Description of Performance Deficiencies

♦ Previous Discussions – Prior Verbal Redirects

Step 1:  Improvement Plan

Ex: These are the expectations related to performance deficiencies to be improved and addressed.  

Step 2: Resources

Ex: List the resources available to employee to complete the improvement activities. 

Step 3:  Progress Updates 

Ex: Performance will be monitored by Management with regular follow-up meetings.

Timeline for Improvement, Consequences & Expectation: 

Ex: Dates Specific / Length of Time ⇒  Failure to meet expectations – what the termination policy looks like

For example:  “Effective immediately, you are placed on a (length of time 30,60,90 day) PIP.  During this time, you will be expected to progress on the plan outlined above.  Failure to meet or exceed these expectations, or any display of gross misconduct may result in action up to and including termination.  In addition, if there is no significant improvement to indicate that the expectations and goals will be met within the timeline indicated in this PIP, your employment may be terminated prior to 60 days.  Failure to maintain performance expectations after the completion of the PIP may result in additional disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

The PIP should be signed and closely monitored, preferably on a weekly basis. Remember there should be no surprises between the employee and the management role. This is a transparent relationship with an action plan of clear expectations and defined consequences. If you need to terminate the employee, there is understanding that accountability was held in the direction to support – and termination is only the final step of the accountability process, not the first.

At Nolan Consulting Group, we strongly believe that incorporating the Performance Improvement Plan process in your HR operations will streamline employee accountability, allow for greater trust and prevent unnecessary post termination consequences. 

For further questions or details on Performance Improvement Plans, reach out to us at

All the Best,

Brian Nolan speaking

Brian Nolan

Managing Partner, Nolan Consulting Group

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