Being a leader or a manager of a team may not be an easy task, but it can be very rewarding to help your team to achieve their targets.

But there are aspects of leadership that can be very stressful, such as when you are forced to place all your team in a ‘normal bell curve’.

In some companies, HR asks managers to distribute the appraisals in a ’normal bell curve’ where the left side are the employees not performing, those in the middle are reaching target and the right surpassing the target.

The issue comes when a team is performing consistently, and no one should be on the left-hand side, but  HR policy dictates that there should be a distribution of lower-performing employees in addition to those that are performing to the required level and above. Such conversations with the individuals affected are difficult.

If the employee is not delivering, placing them on the left-hand side is not an issue.

However, what about ranking someone who is delivering on their objectives as not delivering? This is not an easy conversation. Luckily, in most of the cases HR can reach a compromise.

For example, let’s say that a manager has ten employees reporting to them. The rating table of the company defines their rating according to their level of achievement:

Level of achievementRating
Employee achieved 30% or below of targets.5
Employee achieved 31% to 70% of targets.4
Employee achieved 71% to 100% of targets.3
Employee achieved 101% to 115% of targets.2
Employee achieved above 115% of targets.1
A company rating table.

Out of ten subordinates coded as A to J on an alphabetical scale:

A is a ‘5’ rating;

B and F are ‘4’;

D, G, H, and I are ‘3’;

C and E are ‘2’;

J is a ‘1’ rating. Here, there is an almost perfect bell-curve.

Where you have no ‘4s’ and ‘5s’, how would you build a normal bell curve? You can’t.

Follow this module when setting targets, to make them challenging but achievable, and follow these five principles:

  • Clear;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-based.

Following these principles the manager will never be forced to normalise their team performance as they have the arguments and results to prove that moving a ‘3’ to a ‘4’ or ‘5’ will be an unfair move that could be questioned, with no chance of defence.

When appraising their team, a manager may reach the conclusion that an employee is not performing or behaving as expected by the company. Such a conclusion must trigger a plan.  The employee’s performance needs to improve or else the employee may need to terminate their employment.  

An exit exercise is rarely immediate, and then only in extreme cases of misconduct. Normally it is a process that takes months.

A bank can also have termination processes because of external issues affecting bank performance, such as a financial crisis or a big loss in the credit portfolio which forces the company to reduce staff. Other than that, the exiting process is one that takes time, where the employee involved is advised of their performance and or behaviour and improvement plans are followed, sometimes with success, sometimes not.

To exit an employee can be the biggest challenge to many managers and supervisors, and more so when there isn’t a performance or behaviour issue involved. Such processes need to be handled very carefully, as a difficult situation badly handled can turn into a very real issue.

Even when a bank is facing a difficult time, such processes aren’t easy or without challenges. Yes, you have the excuse of the ’issue’ triggering the termination, but the employee will almost always ask, “Why me?”.

Sometimes, because of external factors, a bank may be forced to exit a group of employees. In any circumstance, the way to proceed must be with the highest level of professionalism and respect to the employees involved.

For the process to run as smoothly as possible, some steps must be followed:

  • The process must be planned;
  • It must be a respectful process;
  • It must be individual and personal;
  • By clear and concise;
  • Always have a witness;
  • The process must not be driven by personal feelings;
  • It must be documented.

The process must be planned. As the exiting process and the decision to terminate an employee is normally not immediate, the process on exiting someone requires good planning. The manager will plan what to say to the individual, ensuring that the discussion takes place in a private location with no distractions. They will know all the steps of the process and be able to provide orientation to the employee affected.

Exiting must be a respectful process – and individual and personal

In any circumstance the manager and the person’s immediate supervisor must oversee the communication of the termination of services to the employee. Never delegate to another person. Such experience is vital for a supervisor or manager. It will improve the manager’s emotional intelligence. It requires them to be cool and manage the situation with no emotional distraction. Doing the difficult job oneself, as the manager or supervisor of the employee being terminated, shows respect and empathy to the individual involved.

Be respectful. Normally one is dealing with an employee who has tried to perform as required. Even in cases of exiting due to misconduct, always be respectful towards the individual.  The manager should explain the causes for the termination to an employee in a non-emotional way.

When someone is being exited from a bank, it is a very difficult and emotional moment for the employee, so the communication around an exit must be done on a one-to-one basis by the direct supervisor. It shows respect and provides a personal touch. Always talk looking straight to the employee, and do not avoid eye contact.

When someone is told that they will leave a company, it is not an easy message to process, so it is very important for the supervisor or manager communicating the message to be very clear in explaining the reason the process is happening. They must be able to answer any doubts that may arise and provide clear orientation on every step of the process.

Always have a witness.

A manager cannot always know how an employee will react in such circumstances, so it is advisable to have another person present during the exit interview. It helps with the formalities of the process, such as signing documents and also helps with any unexpected reaction. A good choice is an HR manager who can help answer any questions about the process.

Exits can’t be driven by personal feelings

Some supervisor/managers find it difficult to stay calm during the exit interview but it is vital to focus on the message, giving guidance and orientation to the employee affected.

Emotional reactions are normal but must be avoided at all costs. The manager needs to be professional throughout. When in doubt or feeling an emotion, remember the facts and data used to arrive at this decision. Use these to explain the reasons to the person in a professional, non-personal, and non-emotional way.

The whole process must be documented and signed, ensuring that the employee understands what is happening and the process that will follow. It is common practice to provide a document with every step of the process to the employee involved.

Once the manager has communicated to the individual, it is important to explain what has happened and how to behave to the remaining  team to avoid any misunderstanding or misconduct.

Sometimes, exiting employees may involve specific packages, mainly when driven by external factors, and not related to the individual’s performance. Such instances can include the merging of banks, a process where an area’s job will now be performed by an external supplier, or cost reduction programmes.

Such packages can provide:

  • A redundancy or severance payment based upon several months’ salary;
  • Outplacement support (where companies help the employee plan the next phase of their career, sometimes helping them find new jobs);
  • Gardening Leave (as some banks demand that key employees stay out of the job market for a period, to avoid passing ‘secrets’ to competitors) with full remuneration for the period of it;
  • Continued health insurance for a period after they have left the company;
  • Any benefit that can ease the transition of the employee.