The Leadership Challenge: Cutting Ties with Poor Performers

The Point: Performance reviews by the numbers often don’t take into account the emotional aspects of working with people. While the numbers should speak for themselves, is it important to take into consideration the “other” factors when determining future personnel roads forward. In this post we’ll examine the leadership challenge of cutting ties with poor performers… Enjoy!

The Leadership Challenge: Cutting Ties with Poor Performers

GM Dumps Cruze… Why You Should Do Likewise!

General Motors (full disclosure, I’m an Alumni that spent 6-years at “Mother Motors”) recently announced that they would be cutting 2,000 jobs at their Lansing, MI and Lordstown, OH factories. Amongst the collateral damage that played out is the dumping of the Chevrolet Cruze model. Why are they getting rid of so many people? The answer is simple… The vehicle just isn’t selling!

In the competitive automotive landscape, just like in your personnel decisions, there is a need to constantly review portfolios of performance to identify what is and what is not working. These decisions can be long and difficult, and their implications can be far reaching for the organization and people (both those left behind to do “more with less” as well as those thrust into the job market searching for work).

Cutting Ties is Easy/Difficult

So what is the leader to do that is faced with poor performance and market rejection? The easy answer is to cut ties based on the financial or operational performance. For example, if John Doe isn’t performing up to the desired performance level he should probably be provided the opportunity to go be successful somewhere else. Important to note that as a leader this should not be done at first-blush, instead you have got to give John the opportunity to receive the proper training/skills/technology to perform the role. Once able to conduct their role, if they are unwilling or abilities come in under performance thresholds it’s time to cut bait!

On the other hand, cutting ties could be very difficult. I know plenty of leaders who struggle with the thought of letting go of an employee because of the employee’s good nature, family relations, and overall good-guy persona. But these aren’t good business decisions, and this isn’t personal in nature. So poor performers should be given the opportunity to go on their marry way out the door (They will land on their feet somewhere, and wherever that is isn’t your responsibility).


In this post we’ve examined the leadership challenge of cutting ties with poor performers. While the business versus personal decision making ability of a leader can be clouded, making decisions with crystal clarity will lead to better results (And you do want results for yourself/your organization, right?)


Sam Palazzolo