How to determine when to fire an employee
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Bring in the firing squad?

You’re excited about the promise of a new year and what it will hold for you and your business. But then you get back to reality and realize …

“It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by
a bunch of turkeys!”

Well, it’s not really the whole crew, it’s just that one. It’s so infuriating; he’s well liked, loyal, mostly dependable, sometimes competent but certainly not always …

Now, I’m going to assume you are a strong leader and that you hire properly, so that’s not the issue. But even with the strongest leadership and best hiring practices, sometimes employees don’t work out. And when one or more people aren’t working out for whatever reason, you have to take action. But that’s the issue, isn’t it? How to you know it’s time to let someone go? This is a big decision – you don’t want to mess up someone’s life just because they are having a bad day (or you are having a bad day). The truth is that most of us wait too long to let someone go. We wait until it’s completely obvious that there is no other way out and by that time the whole organization realizes that this person needs to go – and that you are hesitating instead of acting. You don’t want to get to that point.

So how do you know it’s time for someone to go? Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What is he like on his typical day? I hear business owners say all the time, “On his best day, he’s great.” But if those great days are few and far between, it’s not worth it, is it? On a typical day he needs to exceed expectations, and his days below expectations should be few and far between.
  • Do you need to constantly keep after him about his performance? How many conversations have you had about performance with him? How much are you complaining about him to others? Is it once a month? Once a week? You’ve got better things to do with your time.
  • Are you afraid of letting him go because everyone likes him? It sounds to me like you know they deserve to get fired, but you are concerned about the repercussions. But what are the repercussions of letting him stay? That is not a good reason not to fire someone. You’re just rationalizing. It’s never as bad as you think.
  • What return are you getting on the time and energy you are investing in him? If you are having regular performance management conversations with him, do they have an effect? Is his performance improving and staying improved? You should be getting more out of him than the time you are putting into him.
  • How much time do you spend with him? What if you took the time you are spending
    managing his performance and invested it in one of your best employees? What if
    you put that time toward a new customer, or toward your best customer? How
    would that affect your business?

If any of these questions make you stop and think … then it’s probably time to pull the plug. And I know:  It’s not a good day when you have to fire someone. It’s painful for the employee. It’s painful for you. It’s painful for everyone in the office. We all want to avoid pain.

But keeping an employee who doesn’t contribute to your business just won’t work. And you might be surprised to learn that you are not the only who is affected by this particular employee. It likely bothers your other team members – and it undoubtedly bothers the employee in question too. How would you like to show up to work and not contribute or not “get it”? Someone needs to put the team out of its misery. And that someone is you.

Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

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