When an employer decides to part ways with an employee, it’s typically when the employee is underperforming; they fail to meet quota’s, miss too much time away from work or their behaviour is problematic. I suspect most of us would agree that these reasons lend justification when the parting comes. However, what is less immediately understood is why an employer would remove an employee from their position when they are excelling; performing at a high level.
Think it doesn’t happen? Well of course it does and furthermore, it’s not a bad thing. It’s often in the best interest of not only the company but the employee themselves. “Surely not” I can hear you thinking. “How could dismissing an employee who is performing at a high level of excellence be in the best interest of the employee themselves?”
Well, re-read my opening paragraph and you’ll notice I never said the employee was being dismissed at all. No, I said the employer might remove an employee from their position. The difference is significant and not just a play on words. Dismissing an employee means the employee and the employer part ways. Removing an employee from their position leaves open the possibility that the employee is retained by the employer but put into a new position; a position that makes better use of that employees knowledge, experience and qualifications. So yes, it can be in the best interests of the employer and the employee.
From an employers perspective, the worst time to replace an employee is when they are performing badly. This is the typical time when people are replaced not of their own choosing of course. You see the employer has a problem that can’t be allowed to continue in this case. There’s pressure to find the right replacement, someone with a better attitude, appropriate skills and who can quickly address the immediate needs of the company so production can return to full capacity.
The best time to replace an employee? An interesting way to look at things I admit, and not one the typical worker thinks much about. The best time to replace an employee is when things are running efficiently, there’s no crisis at hand, production is high, morale is good. As for the employee themselves, the employer; (the good employer I should say) sizes up the employee and while they appreciate the good work they do, wants to retain the employee over the long-term and seeks ways to both provide new personal challenges for them and seeks to leverage their excellence the best way they can to benefit more people in the organization.
In other words, if you’re doing great work, your employer might just want to put you in a position to best spread that performance excellence around, hoping to capitalize on the chance you’ll influence others to work similarly. This new work could result in a promotion, or a change in work duties to keep you stimulated, keep you motivated and satisfy your own needs for creativity or change.
Now not everyone realizes they need change when to those around them it’s obvious. Change is neither inherently good or bad, yet many people hear the word change and feel a rise in their own anxiety level. “Change? Oh, I don’t think I’m ready for change”, they say. Yet change is not only necessary but sometimes highly desirable. Many professional athletes reignite their careers and take their performance to new heights when they are traded to another team. They may not have wanted or asked for the change, but quickly adjust out of necessity to meeting new teammates, putting on a different sweater and learning how to contribute with their new co-workers.
An employer may as I say have an employees best interests at heart when they take a top performer out of their comfort zone and put new challenges before them. Perhaps an employer sees a bigger picture here; looks at past employees who excelled in their jobs but who, left too long in the same position, started to rot away. By moving the top performer around, they just might lend their expertise and improve performance in a long-standing low performance area, or they might have to take on the new responsibilities that come with a promotion.
The trick for an employer is to sell not only the employee affected but also the other workers affected by the change on the positive implications of such a move. If a great employee has a severe aversion to change; perhaps their one weak area, the intended reward could backfire. The high performance employee might be adversely impacted and a drop in productivity occurs in the short-term. Don’t explain the move to co-workers and they might get the wrong message; perform at your best and the company will move you to a job you didn’t ask for.
Not all leaders in an organization work on the top floors of the office towers; some of the best leaders are the people on factory floors with their shirt sleeves rolled up, steel-toed boots scuffed up and broad smiles on their faces. Being in a position of authority does not a leader make. It’s an intelligent organization that realizes leaders are needed at every level and so are top performers.
Perform to the best of your ability; see where it takes you. When you make yourself replaceable for the best reasons, opportunity may come knocking.