Real Estate

The Right Way To Part Ways With Employees And Staff Members

COO Erin MCormick Torres knows that there are many reasons you may be looking at a staff member’s suitability for their role. Whether you’re ready to cut ties or are just beginning to question their performance, this guide offers you the due diligence plan you need.

In September, Inman digs deep on real estate teams — what it takes to join or build one, how to optimize a team and even when to consider leaving one. Adding nuance on top of Inman’s weekly Teams Beat email newsletter, this theme month will serve up top insights from the best team leaders across the country.

We’ve all been there: You hire someone you think will be an exceptional talent to fill a need on your real estate team. You give the individual their 30-60-90 plan with goals, expectations and deliverables for their first 90 days. You pour into them, coach and train them, and give constructive feedback along the way. But they aren’t making the desired impact on the team.

Your gut tells you it’s not the right fit, and you should part ways …

Or, on the flip side, you have a long-term staff member working alongside you. As a team leader in a challenging market, you are being forced to evolve daily. You embrace change, but your employee is resisting it.

This resistance is causing ripples in your culture. You’re not seeing the same level of output or contribution you’re accustomed to. They aren’t as responsive and push back on your requests.

Your gut tells you your partnership has run its course, and it’s time to move on …

5 best practices to follow

So, what’s the right way to sever ties with staff members? Through my experience leading an operational team of over 115 employees, I’ve developed and employed many strategies to part ways with employees in the most professional, amicable way possible to protect your company and your reputation.

1. Ensure expectations are clear, known and understood

Always start with why and communicate clearly around your team member’s role, their deliverables, and how they win. Give timely feedback and see how quickly someone can pivot with consistent and clear direction.

You never want to part ways with someone who simply didn’t know what was expected of them or had expectations changed so frequently that they experienced whiplash and were never given a true chance to succeed.

2. Have a step-up or step-out conversation

The moment your gut is telling you it’s time to part ways, use the “step-up or step-out” method. This conversation enables you to see if someone will immediately improve or if they will opt out with higher-level accountability and a touch of micromanagement (which, face it, isn’t fun for anyone but is crucial to this path forward).

With any staff member, you want to ensure they know their performance isn’t living up to your expectations. A staff member should never be blindsided by a termination or not be given the opportunity to course-correct. 

This conversation is that chance. It’s important to have a fierce, yet kind, conversation that immediately encourages them to “step up” their performance … or, on the flip side, decide for themselves that the position isn’t right for them.

After this conversation, you start piling more on their plate and enforcing tighter deadlines to see if they respond with intensity. From my experience, if you don’t see an immediate uptick in their output, communication and performance, it’s time to build the bench and look for their replacement. When someone thanks you for the conversation and immediately improves, you know you want to retain them.

3. Document all performance issues

If signs are pointing toward parting ways, document any and all performance issues in writing. Create a folder and compile screenshots of errors and all feedback you give. Take notes with timestamps when you have specific conversations about performance issues. The more documentation the better if the termination doesn’t end amicably.

4. Put a formal performance improvement plan (PIP) in place

Another means to protect yourself is by putting a formal PIP in place. This document is signed by both parties and outlines the following:

  1. What the performance issues are
  2. A timeline for remedying them
  3. The added support and resources you as their leader will supply
  4. An outline of your one-on-one check-ins to measure progress.

In the presentation of the PIP, make it explicitly clear that termination is pending should you not see dramatic improvements. Ensure you deliver on the supports and check-ins outlined in the PIP.

5. Dial in on the individual’s strengths and determine the right seat on the bus for them

If you’ve determined the employee is making a concerted effort and is a strong cultural fit, perhaps you have a career vision with them to see if there’s an alignment issue with their current role.

  • Have they outgrown the role?
  • Are they bored?
  • Do they not have enough leverage?
  • Do they need more challenges?
  • Is something going on at home?

Having an open conversation about what brings them joy and energizes them, and, on the opposite side, what’s on their “not to-do list,” is key in determining if someone simply needs a role change for greater impact.

If it comes down to releasing the employee from the team and into the industry, ensure you have a neutral third-party as part of the conversation. Always conduct an exit interview with the employee if they’re willing to get their feedback and learn how you could have served them better in the role.

As always, the best way to ensure long-term partnerships is to be “slow to hire and quick to fire,” making sure you do your due diligence before getting into business with someone.

Erin McCormick Torres serves as COO for Livian at KW. She is an author, business coach, Realtor and content creator who runs the popular blog Travel Like a Local: Vermont. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn

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