It’s Time For Another Layoff. How Do You Decide Whose Next?

Posted on July 10, 2012.

At lunch today with two former colleagues, I was forced to remember a particularly difficult layoff decision I had made years ago.  I often ask myself, if I knew then what I know now, would I have made the same decision?

Layoffs are never easy, but assuming you can track results against goals, your consistently poor performers always float to the top of “to go” list.  This kind of hard data can make your job much easier. Additionally, if you’re closing offices and people don’t want to relocate, the decision is made for you.  But in the case of Jerry and Tony, it wasn’t so clear-cut. 

Jerry was extremely well liked by his peers and his clients. He was smart, engaging and fun.  He was also young, immature and not always focused on results. Consequently, while he had been in the job for over 2 years, he had yet to make his goal. 

Tony was more reserved.  He was older, more mature and while this was his first job in the industry, he had more work experience than Jerry.  His clients liked him, but he was more challenged developing strong connections like Jerry. Additionally, Tony had been in the position for less than a year so his performance, while not stellar, was essentially too new to rate.

Who do you pick?  The young, charismatic, immature underachiever or the newer, more mature guy who hasn’t really had a chance to perform? I chose to layoff Jerry.

Of all the people decisions I’ve made over the years, I’ve second-guessed this one the most.  There were pros and cons to both people and I had to rely on my gut vs., clear-cut results you can get from having two people perform the same job over the same period of time. In retrospect, I wish I had done a few things differently, Specifically:

  • Sought the input of my peers. I was younger then and felt I knew everything
  • Sought feedback from clients on everyone’s performance on a regular basis
  • Had more frequent coaching sessions with everyone on my team

Over time, I implemented all of above, which helped in making bonus, promotion and retention decisions.  Better late than never, right?

So what happened to Jerry and Tony?  Jerry was scooped up quickly by another firm and is now a successful manager and leader in his own right. Maybe my kick in the butt helped him see the light, but he had the talent to get there on his own. Terry is still with the company. While I’m not sure he ever set the world on fire, he seems to have found his niche and has been a consistent performer.

Who would you have chosen?