My team wants me to get rid of a staff member. Help!

What happens when my team wants me to get rid of a staff member? Do I bow to the team or take my own course?

It sounds like you are in the midst of a complex situation. In order to give a reasonable response I would need more information about what is occurring, however I will do my best to help you with some ideas of how to proceed.


The first step is to take some time to access the situation, below are some questions to help you to do this.

  • How did it get to the stage that the team have approached you to remove a team member? (Is it one person who has put forward this request or the entire team?)
  • What do you know about the situation prior to the request being brought to you?
  • Have you been addressing performance issues with this person or other members of your team? Are they related to the root cause of this request?
  • How are the dynamics within the team?
  • What has happened historically to get to this situation?
  • What is fact and can be substantiated and what is gossip, personality clashes, etc?
  • What is the real issue?
  • Who is the problem? Is it the person being targetted or is it someone else? The litmus test here is “are they adding value or are they adding work” to you, to the team, to your clients (external or internal). If the resounding answer is they add ‘work’ then yes it may be they need to be asked to excel elsewhere. If they are adding ‘value’ then you might have an issue regarding personalities in your team.
  • Look at the team you have. What personalities and character traits make up your team? How well do you work together as a team? How does this individual fit within your team?
  • Speak to each team member to get a greater insight into individual and team dynamics.
  • Speak to the person who is being targetted to understand their goals and objectives, and how they think they are going in achieving these. Check in with them so you can understand what they are aware of, what is motivating any of their behaviours and do they understand the impact they are having on the team?

Personalities and your workplace climate

Our differences as people create endless opportunities for growth and creativity when these differences are respected and acknowledged. But sometimes these differences can cause sparks to fly.

When you look at the different personalities of your team members and how you all work together, what is the climate of your team? Is the climate one that helps foster good working relationships and cooperation? If not, what needs to be done?

It may be useful for you to have a discussion with a mentor, someone senior in your business or from outside your business and discuss the situation to help you gain clarity.

I canvassed the opinion of a former CEO who now mentors senior leaders and he suggested to consider the following questions:

  • How has the situation reached this stage without anyone dealing with it before?
  • Take time to assess the quality of your leadership. Do you need some support here?
  • Is this person being used as a scapegoat? If so, why? (Is the person more task focussed than people focussed, therefore alienating people? Is the person seen as the leaders favourite? How does this person perform in their role? Is the person viewed as incompetent and is this pulling down the team? Does the person struggle to listen to feedback?)
  • How is the team functioning in other respects? Is the strategic direction clear? Is communication adequate? Are roles and responsibilities clear? How carefully do people attend to processes and procedures?

Ultimately the end decision as the leader of this team is yours. What impact will it have on your business and your team if you act on this request?

Good luck!

Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). In this blog Pollyanna answers questions from our readers on issues they are experiencing leading or being part of a team.  She offers insights on teams and team dynamics. For support and information on team days run by Perspectives Coaching see here. Her previous Blog for SmartCompany, 2nd Time Around was about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round.


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