Enough is Enough: 5 Signs It’s Time to Fire an Employee

Making the decision to fire someone is incredibly difficult for most managers. It’s even harder when you’re dealing with a problem employee you think might be able to turn it around.  Keep in mind, this is a business decision.  It should be the last resort, but when an employee who’s been given every chance to succeed is negatively impacting your team and the company, it’s time to let them go. 


Clear signs it’s time to terminate that problem employee:


1. Doesn’t meet expectations.  Clear communication and documentation are critical when an employee’s performance falls short.  The employee should know exactly what is expected to succeed on the job as well as what will happen if they don’t.  Create a performance improvement plan with a time limit (generally 30, 60 or 90 days) and give feedback throughout the process.  If they don’t commit to the plan and improve, it’s time to terminate employment.


2. Toxic to your team. These employees love to complain and instigate trouble. They suck all the energy and enthusiasm out of the room and don’t work well with others.  Even top performing teams start having issues if they have to deal with a toxic team member for long.  Communicate that a positive attitude is vital to problem solving, collaboration and succeeding on your team.  Document project delays and problems, and if one employee is consistently responsible, you need to remove that person for the good of the team.


3. Wastes time and lacks motivation.  You know the ones.  They play on their phones and computers even when everyone is slammed with work. They don’t seem to feel a sense of urgency about deadlines and never do more than the bare minimum.  If you don’t correct this behavior, other employees will notice what they’re getting away with and lose their motivation and drive.  If this employee isn’t willing to step up their game, it’s time to for them to step down.


4. Highly resistant to change. These employees argue and complain about every new process or technology. They’re great at second guessing decisions and pointing out all the ways a new idea won’t work. And, can easily derail your efforts to get everyone excited and on board with changes.  Make it clear how important openness and cooperation are for change to be successful.  If they still insist on doing things the old way, it’s time to let them go.


5. Doesn’t fit in with company culture.  This isn’t about employees having the same backgrounds or personality types.  It’s about the inevitable problems that arise when your company values teamwork or customer service and an employee obviously doesn’t.  Employees should understand the role they play in contributing to their company’s success.  If they don’t care about company goals and values, they will probably be happier somewhere else.


Terminating an employee will never be an easy decision. But if you’ve tried extra training, feedback, and performance improvement plans, and the problems still remain, it’s best to let them go.  Planning and documentation are key to making this decision less stressful and is the best way to avoid expensive litigation. So if you see these warning signs, focus on making the business decision that’s in the best interest of your team and your company.  

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