Ask the ExpertCategory: QuestionsHow to remove an underperforming team lead from their position?
hri_Admin Staff asked 3 years ago

A manager would like to remove a team lead from their position due to excessive attendance issues and poor performance of job duties. What is the best way to go about this? 
Thank you

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2 Answers
Glenn Demby Staff answered 3 years ago

By “remove,” do you mean terminate or simply demote? The principles are the same, but the stakes and risks are greater if we’re talking about termination.
First and foremost, it’s always highly desirable to talk to a lawyer before you fire or demote an employee, especially if the employee belongs to a union. I’m neither qualified nor allowed to offer you the legal counsel you need, especially since I don’t know any of the facts or what your HR and disciplinary policies say. What I can offer is a general analysis of the legal principles involved.
There are 2 parts of ensuring that discipline, demotion and/or termination is legally sound:
Part 1 is the substance of the legal case. Specifically, you must be able to show that the team leader failed to meet your standards for attendance and performance. And that means that you must actually have such standards, preferably (very preferably) in writing and that you clearly communicated them to your employees, including the team leader. You must then be able to document the things he/she did or didn’t do to meet those standards. You need records of dates, times, descriptions, explanations, resolutions, etc.
Part 2, which is just as important is procedure. Performance and attendance issues are almost always dealt with via progressive discipline (as opposed to violence, theft and other egregious violations that may merit termination or severe discipline even as a first offence). You must show that you have a progressive discipline policy and that you followed it in dealing with the team leader. That means warnings and perhaps intermediary discipline like suspension or demotion–based on what your policy provides. You must also be able to show that you have been consistent in meting out progressive discipline to other employees who committed the same offences. Consistency is particularly imperative if the employee belongs to a class protected against discrimination under human rights laws–race, religion, age, sex, disability, etc.
I also suggest searching the HRI site. There’s tons of material about progressive discipline, attendance and performance. Here’s a link to get you started.

I hope this helps and I want to again urge you to talk to a lawyer if you can–especially if you’re planning to terminate rather than just demote the team leader. Good luck. Glenn

Ashlynn Donaldson replied 3 years ago

Hi Glenn,

Sorry, I should have made that more clear: the employee’s manager would like to demote, not terminate.

I will suggest speaking to a lawyer about this situation.

Thank you for your help!

Glenn Demby Staff answered 3 years ago

That’s what I thought. Although that doesn’t change the approach and legal principles, it certainly lowers the stakes. You probably don’t need to talk to a lawyer as long as the team leader isn’t in a union and the manager reads and follows the suggestions in my first response. Even though it’s not as risky as termination, demotion is still problematic and can result in a grievance, lawsuit or legal challenge (or, if the situation deteriorates, become part of such a challenge involving the team leader later on.) Have a great weekend and thanks for the excellent question.