When to Fire Incompetent HR and What To Do Next
As the leader steering your company's success, your organization's human resources operation critically impacts whether you sink or swim. But what happens when your current HR professional is driving you off course? In this issue, we'll guide you through identifying poor HR fits, smoothly transitioning to a successful replacement, and positioning your organization to thrive.
Spotting When Your HR Manager Needs Replacing
Incompetent HR representatives can severely hinder an organization. But how do you know it's time to fire or replace yours? Watch for these red flags:
- Unethical conduct like gossiping, confidentiality breaches, discrimination, or harassment
- Allowing dangerous compliance violations like missed deadlines or improper payrolls
- Poor or no systems for basic HR practices
- Little or no strategic counsel to managers on HR-related decisions
- Failure to set or document clear goals and provide performance feedback
- Damaging company culture by playing favorites, disciplining inconsistently, or being a yes-man to risky management behaviors, etc.
- Not evolving expertise as employment laws and best HR practices change
When you spot multiple issues, it's time to cut ties and find a new HR manager. The next step? Thoughtfully building superior HR support.
The Pitfalls of Non-HR Staffers Handling HR Duties
As you evaluate your current HR support, an important question is - does the person handling HR actually have an HR background? Often, small companies have non-HR managers or assistants covering human resources functions as a secondary role out of necessity. However, letting non-HR staffers handle critical HR duties can be an enormous risk. Here's why:
No Actual Training in HR Practices
Without formal education or experience in human resources, non-HR personnel lack competency in key areas like:
- Employment law compliance for compensation, safety, discrimination, leave, etc.
- Diplomatic and agreeable employee communications skills
- Valid recruitment, interviewing, and onboarding techniques
- Effective performance management and discipline approaches
- Current best practices for culture building, retention, and engagement
- Strategic HR forecasting aligned with corporate objectives
Their lack of qualified training means they miss opportunities to keep the company out of legal trouble, build the optimal workforce, and drive strategy.
The Wrong HR Background
Many times, someone starts out is a very specific, but limited area of HR like recruiting or file administration. The next thing they know, they are asked to do more and more complex HR tasks and they end up with a higher HR position for which they are not equipped. This ends with them becoming an “HR Manager” or “HR Director” and then looking for another job. They wind up working for you with the title and salary of the job to which they incompetently rose. Now it is your problem.
No Understanding of HR's Strategic Nature
Those without HR expertise often view HR transactionally, just pushing paper. They fail to recognize HR's immense strategic potential to impact the bottom line when done well. Without this mindset, they cannot elevate HR to properly support business goals.
Prone to Compliance Errors
Non-HR staffers frequently make inadvertent yet serious compliance errors like:
- Failure to incorporate smart policies that protect the company
- Mishandling progressive discipline
- Misclassifying workers as contractors
- Allowing unsafe working conditions
- Tolerating harassment and discrimination
- Violating leave and pay requirements
These types of oversights open the company to lawsuits, fines, and Department of Labor investigations.
Lack Insights on Improving Processes
Professionals new to HR have no basis for recognizing when talent programs need redesigning or refreshing. They may retain inefficient status quo processes without identifying opportunities for meaningful HR process improvements.
Can Damage Company Culture
When someone without HR know-how handles your employee’s issues, morale and engagement often deteriorate. Improper tone setting, failure to clarify values, and not role modeling desired behaviors can quickly erode positive culture.
Move Quickly on Ethics Violations
Unlike other departments, HR holds a special duty to act ethically. Violations like breaches of confidentiality, discrimination, and harassment require swift action, including immediate termination when warranted. Allowing an unethical HR employee to remain poisoning the culture can multiply the damage. Act decisively to remove them.
In summary, the risks of having untrained personnel oversee HR far outweigh any minor conveniences. Hiring a competent and experienced HR expert is a much wiser course. It will protect your company far better and in the long run, that can mean higher productivity, morale, and profit.
True HR experts don’t come cheap and they are even harder to find and lure to your employ. You don’t want to replace the devil you know with a devil you k=don’t know, so to speak. So what are your options in replacing the incompetent HR Manager? We will cover those shortly… First, you need to terminate that HR employee who is probably just HR savvy enough to know how to sue you.
Once you decide to terminate an underperforming HR representative, thoughtfully plan the transition. Here is a 790 word addition on why firing an HR employee requires special care:
Terminating an HR Staffer Isn’t Like Firing Just Any Employee
When it comes time to terminate an underperforming employee, letting go of an HR professional requires special precautions and planning above and beyond firing staff in other departments. Consider these important concerns:
HR Holds Sensitive Information
HR representatives have access to vast amounts of sensitive information about employees including:
- Salaries and employment contracts
- Performance histories
- Medical/disability information
- Internal investigations and complaints
- Confidential succession plans
- Access codes for payroll and HR systems
This inside information could prove damaging in the wrong hands.
HR Impacts Company Culture
The HR department plays a lead role in shaping company culture through:
- Modeling leadership behaviors
- Crafting cultural messaging
- Coaching managers on values
- Handling discipline and conflict
Terminating an HR manager without care can disrupt morale, unity, and progress made on culture.
HR Manages Critical Operations
HR oversees payroll, benefits, compliance, recruiting, training, and more. Losing these capabilities abruptly creates chaos. Have a plan to temporarily cover vital functions.
HR Knows Where the Skeletons Are Buried
Long-term HR employees may be privy to historical issues like past lawsuits, toxic leaders, misconduct coverups and more. A disgruntled former HR manager could use or expose this knowledge to harm the company.
HR Can Retaliate or Sabotage
Like any termination, dismissing HR carries some risk of retaliation such as malicious rumors or attempts to poach staff. Be prepared to act decisively in case a disrupted HR employee tries sabotaging your progress. Monitor systems and information closely.
HR Can Initiate Lawsuits Themselves
Given their expertise on employment law, an angry former HR employee may be more likely to sue for discrimination, retaliation, etc. Ensure all dismissals are carefully documented with specific performance issues cited. Never fire out of personal animosity.
As illustrated above, the risks with terminating HR warrant extra steps to protect the organization. With care, companies can push past HR turnover to reach new heights. The key is proper planning and bringing in specialized expertise through outsourced HR.
Orchestrating a Smooth HR Manager Termination
Given all of the potential pitfalls of firing an HR employee, you want to ensure you do things correctly and in good timing:
- Involve leadership like your CEO and legal counsel in the dismissal and replacement plan
- Disable network/building access and collect assets like badges and laptops
- Communicate the transition positively, providing reassurance to employees
- Appoint an interim HR manager to handle essential near-term needs
- Begin exploring a high quality HR outsourcing firm with capabilities to elevate your HR operation
Firing With Care: Best Practices for Letting Go of Your HR Person
Here are our tips for smoothly navigating this delicate but sometimes necessary process:
Get Your Documentation In Place
First and foremost, you need to have a good file of the reasons and causes for the termination. If there are documentable situations and performance issues like lack of expertise, poor decision making, unethical conduct, etc. you need to make and maintain your file with detailed data like dates, times, emails, and employee statements.
If you are replacing the HR employee with an outsourced HR service like My Virtual HR Director, your worries will be considerably lessened. The reasons for this is that outsourcing to a company like My Virtual HR Director:
- Saves money and the financial case can easily be made for terminating the incompetent HR practitioner/
- Doesn’t replace the HR person with another direct replacement. Therefore discrimination like age or gender discrimination cannot be later picked up by the terminated employee
- The outsourced HR experts can help to mitigate any red flags that they find in the aftermath of the termination
- Can document the incompetence and lack of HR skill they find after they take over
Make a Clean Break
Resist keeping a poor HR performer around or having them "resign" quietly. A clean and complete break sends the message that you have high standards. Plus, retaining access can pose legal and security risks. Once someone is let go, ensure they immediately hand over any keys, files or equipment. Disable all network and building access. Preserve professionalism by keeping termination details confidential.
Consider Damage Control
Given HR's access to sensitive information and ability to impact morale, you may need to act preemptively to prevent disruption. Develop a communication plan, reassign workload temporarily, change system passwords and access. If there was misconduct, consider offering counseling or other support to employees who may feel betrayed by the terminated HR professional's misconduct.
Involve Other Leaders
Before firing an HR employee, loop in other senior leaders, like the vital managers and legal counsel. Outline reasons for termination and how you plan to handle communication. Develop talking points to maintain consistency. Brainstorm any potential retaliation risks. Enlist their support in ushering the transition smoothly.
Plan the Conversation
Set up an in-person meeting in a private but not secluded space to maintain safety. Have another leader join as a neutral witness. Clearly explain the reasons for termination and provide documentation. Offer severance and support if appropriate. Be direct but compassionate. Avoid getting defensive if emotions run high. Stick to the facts. Don’t argue, just keep restating the fact that the decision is final.
Secure Company Assets
Prior to the meeting, take steps to protect company assets, including collecting badges and laptops, disabling network access, and changing passwords. Conduct a professional search of the employee's records, computer, and office to secure sensitive documents and other materials.
Once the employee is dismissed, notify staff. Frame the transition in a positive light, such as paving the way for growth. Assure the team their needs will continue being met. Avoid disclosing details around termination reasoning. Be available to answer questions and listen to concerns. Modify communication appropriately for explaining the change to clients or vendors impacted by the transition.
Now What?... Rebuilding Begins Now
With care and prudence, firing an HR employee need not sabotage culture or progress. Begin rebuilding immediately, even as you thoughtfully process lessons learned.
The bigger opportunity? This transition allows you to trade up to an outsourced HR provider with exceedingly more expertise at a much lower cost. You can begin working with the outsourced HR department even before you terminate your incompetent HR Manager. The Human Resources experts in the outsourcing firm will work prudently and confidentially to assist you with the termination process and plan a smooth transition of all HR processes and institutional knowledge.
The Smarter HR Choice: Outsourcing for the Win
By partnering with outsourced HR, you no longer have to gamble on finding and managing an HR unicorn. The most prudent investment is an outsourced team whose existing expertise removes the risks of relying on just one in-house HR employee.
Rather than scrambling to fill an HR gap with another potential underperformer, move to outsourcing your HR instead. The benefits are immense:
Cost Savings: Outsourced HR provides full-spectrum support without the overhead of salaried roles. Pay less for extensive capabilities from specialized experts. No payroll taxes, no footprint, no equipment.
Scalability: Quickly scale HR support up and down to match your changing needs. Add services as you grow. Forget about a lengthy recruiting process and lost productivity.
Proactive Guidance: Seasoned outsourced HR pros see risks coming and coach you to avoid issues. A good provider will also make sure you have the nuts and bolts of HR compliance covered. Often things your old HR staffer never even knew were required.
Neutrality: With no office politics influencing them, outsourced HR can stay objective resolving conflicts. This also can instill trust in employees and encourage them to use HR more fully and fruitfully since they won’t have fear of gossip or retaliation.
Reliability: Never again worry about losing HR capabilities due to turnover. Outsourced HR offers steady expertise. Vacations and sick days will never be a problem for your critical HR processes again.
Choosing the Right Outsourcing Partner
Once you decide to outsource HR, choose your partner carefully:
- Look for breadth and depth of expertise across HR functions, not just another one-person show
- Ask about their experience serving companies in your industry and growth stage
- Inquire about scalability as your HR needs evolve
Avoid all-in-one solutions like a PEO. Like all solutions that claim to be all-in-one, they tend to be good at some things, but not others. Our experience is their proactive HR services are almost always non-existent.
After comparing providers, we are sure you will find that My Virtual HR Director stands out for all the right reasons. Contact us today to learn more!
Steer Your Organization Confidently Again
With the right outsourced HR partner, you can return your focus to navigating your company toward success knowing your human resources needs are covered. Outsourcing provides superior support minus the headaches of managing an inconsistent in-house HR pro. You deserve an HR operation as competent as the rest of your leadership team. Make the investment in outsourced HR expertise to steer your organization where it needs to go.