When to Fire an Employee

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Firing an employee is an unpleasant experience for everyone involved, but has to be done sometimes. You should know the right time to pull the trigger.

Few people enjoy firing an employee, even when they've been a thorn in the side. Humans don't like change, and believe it or not, responsible managers often feel like they've let the employee down in some way. Letting go of the wrong person for your company gives them the opportunity to find another position in which they will shine; however, it may also be the best solution for everyone. The question is, "How do you know someone is the wrong employee for you at this time?"

Early Warning Signs

Hiring people in a pinch is the common path to a firing down the road; so is hiring someone when you have reservations you just can't put your finger on. The truth is that some employees show signs of being wrong for a position before they're even hired. Changing the way you bring new people into the fold will help cut down on turnovers. Here are a few pre-employment red flags to keep in mind: - Lack of knowledge or enthusiasm about the open position - No professional references from direct management - They don't have enough in common with your current successful hires Invariably, at some point in your career, you're likely to hire someone who falls into one of these categories anyway. Keep a watchful eye out for these common signs that your newly hired candidate is already on their way out the door: - They struggle to or show no interest in making friends - They make excuses for their mistakes instead of looking for solutions - They engage in negative behaviors, such as speaking badly about clients, co-workers or the company

The Bitter and Burned Out

Changes can also occur over time, leading to long-time employees who no longer benefit your business. It can be especially hard to give people pink slips when you have a history together. Unfortunately, when these relationships sour, they can be the most toxic for your work environment. Everyone deals with a crisis once in their lives or goes through a period of intense stress. Failing employees can often be brought back up to speed through motivating, therapy, coaching or simply a change in scenery. If you've tried rehab and it hasn't worked, it may simply be time to consider freeing them up for other opportunities. Look out for these warning signs that an established worker is ready to move on: - A pattern of instability affecting performance at work - Fluctuations in quality, with more lows than highs - Disrespectful attitude toward supervisors, clients or co-workers - Refusal to take responsibility for problems - Notable lack of enthusiasm which affects quality or company morale

Friendly Firing

Most managers cringe at the idea of firing an employee, even if they're only worried about the legal risks. Moreover, they don't want to deal with the personal repercussions, the scene an unprofessional employee could make in front of clients or the threats, or actions they might take. For this reason, more companies are making the firing process as friendly as possible. You can do this by: - Offering an employee the chance to resign - Providing recommendations or referrals to help them find a new job - Allowing use of company resources, such as an office or Internet connection, for job searching You can also have an easier time going through the process if you present everything in writing to your employee during a sit-down meeting. Having this step in mind can prevent rash decisions that could end in legal problems. Have a copy of the company handbook and a record of all disciplinary measures or copies of employee assessments available to help explain your decision. In certain situations, it may be worth offering a severance package in exchange for an employee waiving the right to further compensation. For the most part, you can't prevent someone from getting upset and ranting or wailing, or even from suing your company. You can only keep the records needed to prove you were in the right and handle the firing in a way that minimizes the damage. Half of the battle is ensuring you do the best job right at the beginning by taking time to hire the right people, both for the position and for the company.  

Hilary F.

Hilary F.

Fort Dodge, Iowa, United States

Hilary Ferrand has been writing professionally for 20 years. She makes her home in North Central Iowa with her husband, Dennis, and their five children.

Jobs Completed 456 Customer Ratings 5 Job Success 437/456 (95%)

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