How to Avoid the Most Common Challenges When Letting a Digital Team Member Go
Unfortunately, it goes without saying that there will be some point in time when you'll need to let someone from your team go.
Over the course of my outsourcing experience, I have interacted with plenty of people who, for better or worse, have gone on to other projects. In some instances, the contract concluded naturally or they were moving on to a different chapter in their life, offering services that I didn't need or transitioning into being a full-time stay-at-home mom. In other situations, however, I was the one who was cutting the cord after a bad experience or deciding that I no longer needed the help.
There are several different common mistakes that you need to avoid when you come to the conclusion that it is time to let an online employee go. There are many different reasons that can prompt you to begin to feel this but I encourage you to trust your intuition.
Usually, when something doesn't feel right, it's not right- and you need to take action sooner rather than later or at least make an effort to uncover what exactly is happening so you can make an informed decision whether or not this person belongs on your team or not. What follows are some things that I have learned as it relates to letting virtual employees go.
Letting a Situation Fester Too Long Without Communication
If you start to notice that your virtual assistant or other team member is letting deadlines go, reach out to them. In some cases, this may even be your fault. You may not be providing appropriate instructions. Or it could be more personal for them, they could have something going on in their lives that requires their attention at that point in time.
You should always do your digital team members the courtesy of asking them if there are things you can do to make life and business easier for them or to simply find out what's going on with them. They may need a couple of days off for a break from working on your project but you should never assume that they are trying to be malicious on purpose. This is very rarely the case. Always attempt to have a conversation first, preferably over the phone if you can.
Not Having a Process in Place
There should always be a process when you think about letting a team member go. It can be as simple as a checklist of materials such as changing the passwords, giving the person written notice that the contract is ending, and wrapping up any projects they were currently working on. This can help you to keep things straight when you might otherwise let your emotions take control of the situation.
Referring to the checklist also ensures that you have all of your bases covered during this important time.
Not Changing Passwords
I recommend using a tool like LastPass for sharing information with your team members but if you do have to let someone go, I strongly recommend changing all passwords anyway. This helps you to have some peace of mind that someone will not go in and revise all the content on your website or hack it or cause something else to crash. Unfortunately, I have known other people that this has happened to so it is well worth paying attention to the need to change passwords.
You may want to change the passwords immediately before you inform the person that you are terminating their contract or begin tapering off their duties well in advance so that they do not have the opportunity to do anything with ill will. I share that this happens very rarely but it is important to protect yourself particularly in this day and age when you have a lot of value and brand built up into your digital assets.
Not Ending It Professionally
Where possible, try to get the person on the phone or for a quick Skype call. However, I have noticed in recent months that several of the people that have encountered this problem have had an issue getting their virtual assistant on the phone or on a Skype call. This may be because the person knows that they are at risk of being fired and is avoiding a phone call completely. In other situations, the person simply doesn't want to confront the fact that they haven't been performing to the best of their ability.
Make several efforts to get the person on the phone in order to have a frank conversation about what has happened, when possible. If not, give them written notice over email and advise them of any wrap-up procedures i.e. how you will be paying their final invoice, what projects will be turned over and whether or not they have anything that you need to review immediately.
Try to keep things professional at all times even though this is not always easy. Emotions may be running high when you are thinking about letting a team member go but try to remain calm and move forward positively into the future.