At some point you may be in an unfortunate position where you have to downsize your team.   

You must decide who on your team gets to stay and who has to go.   

I know you want this to be a fair and objective process because it’s a very difficult decision.   

No leader wants to lose valuable team members and everybody on your team is valuable.   

No organization wants to downsize, but changes in the economy or business environment forces them to.  

Downsizing can be disconcerting to your staff and the morale of your organization.  

Your team will walk around on eggshells, wondering if they’re next.   

How can you ensure that you’re making the right decision when it comes to downsizing?  

What factors do you consider when you’re thinking about which team member to downsize first?  

Who To Cut First  

1. Toxic Teammates  

The usual framework you hear for downsizing is the last hired is the first to be fired.   

I don’t agree with this idea.   

My first look would be at anyone on the team that is currently in a disciplinary process.   

This is the person who has not performed well, or they are generally toxic in your environment.  

They cause problems with other coworkers and they’re hard to manage.   

You may have had to place them on a performance improvement plan because of this behavior.  

Whether they’re your highest paid or top producers, these are the ones you should consider to remove first.  

If a top producer creates a toxic environment that makes people around them feel bad, they are preventing everyone else from also being a top producer.  

2. Lazy Learners  

The next group of people to look at if you have the downsize are those not willing to learn.  

Training and development is something that needs to be done daily in your business.  

Who are the team members that are last to complete their modules in your learning management system?   

Which team members make excuses to avoid going to conferences or retreats.  

The people on your team need to be sharp.  

If you have someone on your team that refuses to listen, learn and grow, they will not help in advancing your organization.  

3. Last Hired, First Fired  

The third type of person to consider is the last hired.  

This is the last person to look at because you may have brought on a recent hire that is a top-notch performer.  

Do you really want to lose the top team member you just brought on because and keep someone who’s been around a while and not as productive?  

I would think long and hard about that.   

This is why the idea of the last hired, first fired is something you should consider last.  

During a downsize, your team is going to be asked to do more with less people.  

This means you must rely on your top performers; those who people generally like and most importantly those willing to learn and grow.  

It doesn’t matter if they’ve been there for two months or 20 years.  

You want the best people to stick in your organization. 



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