Sacked for failing to meet expectations

By: Jennie Horchover

Date: 17 March 2010

It’s not often that you’ll find me quoting from the Daily Mail, but a recent headline caught my attention: “Headteachers are being sacked like football managers”. 

The Association of School and College Leaders has just released figures which show that 163 headteachers were sacked last year, and commented that local authorities have unrealistic expectations about the speed at which results can be achieved. 

For any business that employs more than a handful of people, there is likely to a structure in place in which some employees have managerial responsibility over others. Does this mean that the manager is responsible for the overall performance of their team? Is it fair to punish them for failures which could be due to circumstances under their control? On the one hand they are an easy scapegoat, as in the case of headteachers or football managers; sacking a leader is evidence of decisive action and a new beginning. If they were in charge then it must be their fault. However, this course of action often fails to deal with any underlying problems, either within the team or with procedures and working practices. 

Leaving aside the reasons for last year’s sackings, the £4 million paid out to school heads who were dismissed is surely evidence that problems could have been handled more effectively. So how should you deal with a failure to meet expectations in any of your employees? 

The first step is to ensure that an employee clearly knows what is expected of them. Are job descriptions up to date? Set SMART objectives (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and timely) within a structured meeting, and keep meeting records.

Provide regular feedback, and deal with problems as soon as they arise.  

Remember that disciplinary action, especially dismissal, should be a last resort in capability cases, and that procedures need to be spot on to avoid potentially expensive mistakes. 

Jennie Horchover of The HR Dept.

Law Donut

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