Shop Life Columnists

Menefee: How Firing My Best Technician Liberated My Shop

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The collision repair industry is hurting for skilled technicians and firing a skilled tech is pretty unfathomable for most shops. I am always reading articles and blogs about how to attract skilled technicians, how to cross train, apprentencing technicians and how there is just a general lack of collision repair schools. We can all agree good technicians are just hard to come by.

I cannot state enough the importance of having good skilled collision repair technicians, but along the same lines we know how critical it is to have a good shop culture. Shop culture affects our entire shop and in my personal opinion it can critically affect shop flow and employee retention. So what happens when one of your best technicians is wreaking havoc on your shop culture? Well let me tell you that’s what I had to deal with at my shop.

My best technician had been with me for almost five years and I depended on him heavily. If I needed something done on a car right then he would do it. If I needed him to come early or stay late or come in on a weekend he would do it. He was fast. He was skilled. He was committed to the shop. All the other technicians and staff seemed to like him. Overall he was an excellent repair technician. 

So why did I fire him?

Dynamic is the word that comes to mind. His dynamic within the shop was throwing everything else off.

It started off very small where I didn’t see what was happening, but he started to believe that the shop and myself needed him more than he needed the shop and the job. If you’ve been in the industry long you all can think of one technician that comes to mind when I say this. He started to become a playboy, strutting around the shop like a rooster preening his feathers. It began with taking small liberties of the freedom I allotted him because he was such a good technician and someone I relied on. Those small liberties began to grow. 

When I saw what was happening I put a stop to it. I spoke to him. I addressed the issues and was hoping that would resolve things but his energy had changed. Everything seemed to be running smoothly and the same as before but it wasn’t. He wasn’t happy. He felt like I was now taking advantage of him because I put a stop to those liberties he was taking. His energy and how he felt about the shop changed, which changed the whole dynamic in my shop. But it was so hard to pinpoint because everything seemed normal.

I was terrified to fire him. What if I was wrong and he wasn’t the issue with the shop? I didn’t know when and where I would find another skilled technician. I didn’t know how the other employees would react. I was afraid that it would make them feel insecure in their positions at the shop if I was firing my best technician. I was concerned about shop flow and if we would be able to get the same amount of vehicles out that we were used to. I was worried about the shop culture. I was just worried that I hadn’t tried all I could do to save this valuable employee and that I was going to make a wrong decision.

Finally though, I did fire him. He started taking liberties again and I couldn’t justify keeping him. It was affecting morale, affecting shop flow and causing me a huge amount of stress.

And it was one of the best decisions I have made in the shop to date. 

I had no idea how one person and their personality and energy could so negatively affect a shop. I was worried about the shop’s productivity but everyone, without me having to ask, pulled together and we kept our shop flow the same. Yes we had to work some extra hours until we found a replacement technician, but everyone stepped up and did that willingly. The shop morale and shop culture changed for the better within one week of my letting my best technician go. The employees are closer knit now and morale and culture is better than it ever has been. It still leaves me dumbfounded how I can let my best technician go and the effect it had on the shop was an instant benefit, not a drawback. 

Moral of the story is don’t let one employee, even if it is your best technician, hold your shop back. Yes, it is scary to let someone you really depend on go but you and your shop will rebound. Letting my best technician go was one of the best decisions I have made because my shop and my team are stronger now than we ever were. 


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