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KPCB 12-200 Engineering Meet-Up - When You Get It Wrong: How to Fire People

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Published on Dec 11, 2013

Sometimes even the smartest manager will make bad hires. How should you deal with underperformers?

How to fire weak engineers was discussed at length during a recent panel on hiring engineering teams hosted by KPCB general partner Mike Abbott at the KPCB offices in San Francisco. Participants included Abhi Khune, the head of infrastructure at Pinterest; Flipboard CTO (and Kleiner alum) Eric Feng; and Nest founder and engineering VP Matt Rogers.

Feng says the key is to manage the situation quickly and decisively. He believes that 99% of people are actually relieved, if not necessarily right away. A lot of them actually call to thank me, he says. "You have to pull off the Band-Aid. You can't have a problem and not confront it."
Khune notes that the toughest situation involves people who aren't terrible, but aren't living up to expectations, either.

And according to Rogers, Nest spends 80% of their time on the top 20% of performers. "We need to keep the racehorses running as fast as possible," he says. Rogers adds that he's not a believer in annual performance reviews -- that they give feedback on a continual basis. "We do reviews every day," he says. "Our team appreciates it."

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