When To Terminate An Employee

October 28, 2018


Every manager has found themselves at this fork in the road at some point. Face to face with an under-performing employee we are presented with the options of terminating the employee, or keeping them on payroll and attempting to correct their ills. Some say that developing talent is the true test of a manager. This is true when the talent is lacking but has the desire to improve. However, it could also be a total waste of time and money. So how do we make this decision? Let's look at a couple of factors.


1. What is the employee's overall attitude toward the job?

Sometimes you have an employee that is not the greatest but is just a joy to work around. The staff loves them, the customers love them, but they're just not producing. However, they have the desire to be better. On the other side of that, there's the employee that's not producing and has a horrible attitude. Other employees would line up and cheer if you terminate this individual. It's a no-brainer. If this person is causing undue stress for the rest of the staff or the customers, and you truly believe that it will be difficult to turn them around... then you have to go with your gut and sever ties with this individual.

The exception here may be an employee that has a horrible attitude but produces high results. It is here that you have to weigh out the two and determine what the best decision is going to be. As long as they're not just flat-out disrespectful and insubordinate you may have to suck up your personal feelings and keep this person on the payroll.


There's also the employee that's not great at their job, and has a totally different perception in their own mind. In their mind they're the best thing since sliced bread. Sometimes it's difficult bringing those employees to reality. In order to help develop them they have to accept the fact that they need to improve. If that's not something they're willing to accept then you cannot help them, and they should probably be terminated.


2. What are the negative consequences of terminating them?

What are the immediate and long-term effects of terminating this individual? How will it impact the staff or the customers, or even yourself? Will it cause undue stress to these individuals? Will it significantly increase the workload of staff or yourself? Or is this person a lowly worker bee that could easily be interchanged? How will it affect the morale of remaining staff members ? Sometimes horrible employees are loved by the co-workers who are blind to the issues this person causes . Figure out the answers to these questions and then weigh them out against the positive effects of terminating this individual question.


3. Can some of the responsibilities that present them trouble be taken away? Some employees are awesome at certain tasks and horrible at others. Can those responsibilities that they are horrible at be delegated to another employee or absorbed into your own responsibilities without increasing your workload to the point of dropping plates? You may have an employee and that's really awesome with customers but has issues with any computer related tasks. Is finding someone that is good at those computer tasks worth losing an individual that has great rapport with new and existing customers?


4. How difficult will it be to fill their role with a quality employee?

I remember some years ago I worked at a hotel that would have people beating the doors down for employment. Not only were they beating the doors down, but most of them were either qualified or over qualified. I have also worked in markets where the labor pool was absolutely horrible. If someone left, whether on their own volition or not, it took forever to find someone halfway good enough to fill the roll. If it is going to take you three months of searching and paying for ads without certainty that you will be able to fill this roll with someone that's better... Maybe you should just work with what you have. Every time you hire someone new, that person should be an upgrade to what you've already had. 


5. How difficult will it be to terminate them?

Some employees are like a cough that you can't get rid of in time. Terminating an employee is not always as simple as one might think. Have they committed terminable offenses? And I don't mean just in your humble opinion... Have they committed offenses that required disciplinary action? Have you documented that disciplinary action? How long have they been with the company? What are your companies policies on termination, and how strict is the HR department on enforcing them? I have worked for a company in the past that was so paranoid about lawsuits that they made it damn-near impossible to terminate anyone. So when you're in a position like this, you have to make sure that all attempts to salvage this individual have been made. Because ultimately, a termination may place you in hot water.


6. Can they be moved to another position?

Some people are horrible at their job, but can be quite useful in another role. I once worked with a guy that was a chef. We fired him, then re-hired him, and was very close to terminating him again. However, one night we needed help outside of the kitchen and on the floor of the restaurant. The way he interacted with the guest was awesome! There was no available role for a host, so we decided to move him to the front desk. And guess what? People loved him! So the question is: in your place of business, is there another role this person can play that will save them from sudden doom? If you have any openings it may be worth giving them a shot.


In my earlier years as a manager I terminated so many people I couldn't remember their names. Then one day, one of my managers came rushing into the office anxiously. He looked at me from across my desk and blurted, "If you keep firing everyone we won't have any staff left!" It was at that moment that I had a wake up call. After that day I gave people ample chances to get their stuff together before they ended up on the chopping block. However, years later I'm not so sure I should have taken in his words the way I did. I should have found more of a middle ground. Sometimes the unemployment is worth it. Keeping some employees around is more costly in the end. As a a manager I have a really good gut feeling about who can be turned around and who cannot be turned around. It makes me angry when I spend time trying to develop an employee that I know will not last, only to be proven right months down the line. In that same time, I could have hired someone new, had them trained and producing the results the company needed. In the bounds of the law you have to make the best decision you humanly can. That's what you get paid to do. Spend ample time training your employees and giving them the best of your experiences. But, also know when to cut your ties.


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Jarray Davis is the author of After Attraction: Relationships Are Simple, Right?


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