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What to do when long-time employees can’t can’t keep up


Confronting an overwhelmed employee can be a difficult task for a hiring manager.

When a loyal, long-time employee becomes unable to cope with an increased workload, managers of growing businesses are faced with a conundrum: Should that person’s position be redesigned? Should they be let go, or should they be reassigned to another, less demanding role?

At the September 2013 Inc. Women’s Summit in New York City, Bank of America senior human resources executive Katie J. Morgan acknowledged the difficulty of the situation and recommended being as up front and candid with your underperforming long-time employee as possible, and perhaps planning the transition to a replacement while keeping your loyal worker on the payroll as a consultant, supervisor or other suitable role.

FCi Federal founder Sharon Virts-Mozer had recently decided to hold on to a loyal, hardworking employee who couldn’t keep up by changing her status from full-time to part-time, allowing her to continue managing the tasks she was still capable of doing well and freeing her of responsibilities with which she was struggling.

In an article published by The Houston Chronicle, writer Lynne MacDonald recommends devising a performance management or personal improvement plan. This will ensure the employee understands the company’s expectations for her future performance. Completing regular performance reviews — and documenting them — will make reevaluating the employee’s status, if necessary, somewhat simpler.

“Dismissal for poor performance is not a decision to be taken lightly,” writes MacDonald. “A disgruntled former employee can raise a court action if he considers his termination to be unfair.” She strongly recommends keeping a paper trail in order to demonstrate the employee’s inability to meet “reasonable standards” in order to mitigate legal trouble.

Whether shifting a loyal employee to a different role or letting them go, utilizing pre employment testing will ensure their replacement has the skills and the right demeanor to keep up with increasing, or shifting, responsibilities.