When a worker is no longer the right fit

Business leader explains how to know when it's time to let go, and the right way to do it

When a worker is no longer the right fit
There is no such thing as the perfect fit. There is only a good fit at the right time.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Acceleration Partners’ Robert Glazer talked about two contractors whom he had worked with early in his company’s life.

These contractors played key roles in client services and delivered results. They were strong performers and clients liked them. Over time, however, as the company grew and defined its core values, it became clear the contractors did not fit into the new culture.

“They were often difficult to catch on the phone, noncommittal about deadlines, and understandably had more of an individual, not team-based, approach to their work,” Glazer said.

Ultimately, they let go of the contractors, “not because their work wasn’t strong, but because they weren’t aligned with our values.”

Glazer acknowledged that there are instances employees become a weaker fit over time.

But what is “fit,” in the first place? Glazer says it is neither concrete nor simple. “What if a round peg develops sharp corners, or a round hole expands over time?” This is because people, and the needs they fulfill, evolve constantly especially in some companies that grow quickly.

Great leaders are able to recognise when who was previously a good fit has fallen out of alignment with company culture and values. Glazer thinks three things can help managers minimise the likelihood of the latter:
  1. Implement personality tests to discover purpose. Find out a person’s “why” – the primary purpose in business and life.
  1. Rethink employee development and exits. Don’t regard departures as a bad thing. The exit process can be respectful and open. Embrace the concept of mindful transition. In fact, encourage employees to discuss their goals and plans openly with their managers – even if these plans do not go with their current roles.  
  1. Recognize that experience does not equal fit. The best candidates are well-rounded people whose intrinsic characteristics align with the company’s values. For example, one of Glazer’s company’s core values is “excel and improve” so they hire candidates who demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning.
Find a worker who aligns with the organization – and learn to let go when it stops doing that.

Related stories:
How to get the most from your managers
Four tips for finding the right cultural fit

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