We fired an employee a few weeks ago. She never saw it coming.
She was truly surprised that she got the axe.
I've noticed that the people we fire rarely see it coming. I've always thought they were kind of clueless.
Recently, however, I recognized that their surprise is not evidence of their cluelessness.
Their surprise is evidence of our incompetence as managers. We are dropping the ball. They shouldn't be surprised. If we were doing our job as managers, they'd see it coming. They see it coming really clearly and in vivid colors!
It's our job to show them what we expect, to show them the gap between our expectations and their performance, and to show them how to fill the gap. If we're explaining, teaching, coaching, and providing feedback, they'll be very familiar with their deficiencies. They'll know whether they're failing to meet expectations, and they'll know what to do to correct the situation.
We're not giving sufficient feedback when employees are surprised by their own termination.
I'm not suggesting that every employee can do the job. I'm not suggesting that it's our responsibility to fill the gap for them.
I am, however, suggesting that they should know exactly what they were supposed to do, and they should know they aren't doing it.
Sometimes it's our fault and not theirs.