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The Sales Shrink – Crushing the Office Grapevine

by Tina Cherpes, Featured Contributor

Group Therapy: Lessons From The Couch – #17

“Right after she got back from lunch she got called into Smitty’s office and the next thing I knew, Smitty and that ice princess from HR were standing by her cube watching her pack up her things. I mean how humiliating? Chris said he thinks she probably just slept with the wrong guy but I said guy? girl’s more like it…wonder what she did? I’ll let you know what I find out from Marci – she’s usually got the scoop on everyone around here”. The office grapevine was spiraling out of control and for the next few days, it was highly unlikely that productivity sales shrinkwould be a top priority.

At certain times in our professional lives, we may find ourselves responsible for the overall success of a team and the contribution our team makes on the organization as a whole. When we’re unwilling to invest further time, energy, or resources trying to affect a behavioral change within an individual that will restore a mutually beneficial fit within our team or organization, termination may be the appropriate course of action.

When a termination conversation must take place, there are a few who, what, when, where, and how steps we can take to help protect our business and minimize the disruption to our team’s morale and productivity.

WHO to include: As an observer, note taker, and objective 3rd party, always include a representative from HR. As a small business owner with no HR resources to leverage, it can be helpful to remember terminations are legal proceedings and it is our responsibility to make sure they are done correctly and legally.

WHAT to watch out for: Seldom is a termination a surprise to the one being terminated. As such, excessive talk or debate would not be appropriate at this stage of the process. Should the employee become agitated, hostile, or aggressive it can be helpful to have a plan devised (in advance) to get security/help if it becomes necessary.

WHEN to do it: For the least amount of business disruption, it’s beneficial to avoid terminations during peak staffing and activity periods. If as an example, our standard office hours are Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm, electing to terminate an individual on a Friday afternoon when the staffing/activity levels are at their lowest, can be an optimal choice.

WHERE to do it: We demonstrate a level of professional respect and courtesy by conducting terminations in person (face-to-face) and in private; all other methods of termination can diminish our professional reputation.

HOW to conduct the meeting: At this stage of the process, a brief, professional, unapologetic statement is typically appropriate. “Tim as you know, we’ve gone through counseling, written and final action plans, and your numbers aren’t where they need to be; consequently your employment with us will be terminated today. Any questions?”

Lesson? While we’ll never entirely eradicate the grapevine phenomenon, there are often a few simple steps we can take in any process to make it much more difficult for it to thrive and wreak havoc on our team and on our business.


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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Excellent points, Tina. I’ve terminated a few people in my time and I found another point to follow.

    Never terminate someone in anger. If something must be done immediately (drinking or using drugs on the job, theft, etc.) then send the employee home with the instruction to see you in your office the next morning. If you terminate someone when you are angry you are quite likely to say things that can come back to haunt you.

    The ideal time to terminate for most offices is at the close of business on Friday. That gives the weekend for the gossip mongers to wear the subject out before Monday morning.

    You point of having a third party present is essential. If not HR, then security, or another member of management/supervision.

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