Terminating a Tenured Employee

One of the most rewarding aspects of starting and growing a business over the past 19+ plus years is that I have a number of tenured employees who have shared this amazing, crazy journey with me. 

For instance, my Vice President of Design/Engineering   has been with ISI since close to the beginning (1997) and now it's almost 18 years later. Together we've seen a lot of people and products come and go and sometimes joke about how about how (sadly) we've outlasted a lot of marriages we both know. It is with great pride that I can say there are a number of other long term ISI employees including my Nashville based service tech (12 years) accounts receivable and  programming manager (11 years) and my assistant (10 years). And in the latter part of 2015, ISI's Vice President of Sales will celebrate his 10 year anniversary with the company.  They are all great people and I'm so grateful for their loyalty and dedication all these years later! 

But when can that gratitude and loyalty to a long term employee cloud a business owner's judgment? When does sentimental thinking keep a business owner from rational thinking?   Based on my experience at ISI, one of the issues that occur when managing a long term employee is that (both of you) tend to get so comfortable with each other that you oftentimes "look the other way" when there are problems or other performance issues. When is it acceptable to tolerate behavior from one employee that you deem totally unacceptable for others?  Is it right to cut them slack solely based on their "tenure" with the company? And shouldn't an employee adapt, evolve and change with the times and be held accountable whether they have been with the company 1 year or 10 years? 

Recently I dealt with many of these very issues at ISI which resulted in the termination of a long term employee (12 years). Not only a personal and painful experience but sad as well. 12 years is a long time . And I must say it taught me some really valuable lessons about leadership and making "tough calls." Sometimes its not about doing the easiest thing for you but doing the right thing for the business. So what did the experience teach me? 

1) A leader has to be consistent in managing employees (1 year or 10 years)  

2) Hold each and every employee accountable to adapt/change with the times to stay competitive 

3) Sentimental thinking should never trump rational thinking. 

And at the end of the day, a leader needs to make the tough calls for a company to grow and prosper in the future.  

Posted by Jay Myers at 4:57 PM