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When to Fire an Employee

Updated on June 23, 2011

What you should fire for

I have the unfortunate experience of firing several people over nearly twelve years of management. It's really important to remember that every employee is a person, may have a family, and needs latitude at times. I have a few simple rules for firing.

If an employee steels, lies or cheats the company, fire immediately. Do not give second chances. These are actions that can't be tolerated. When an employee is fired for these actions, I've never seen them contest them. Here's an example, an employee is putting down more hours than they worked on a time card by an amount that there's no doubt they're lying. Fire them.

If an employee is given a set of rules or tasks and they fail three times in a row on more than one of them, it's likely the employee will never perform well and should be let go. Here's an example, you tell employees to lock the door when they leave, the employee doesn't do it three times over a relatively short period of time, fire them. Another is you ask for a task to be done and they continually fail. This likely means they don't have the skill to do it and if it's an important part of the job. If that's the case, you have to fire them.

You have an employee that is an asshole. I think being an asshole is a firealbe offense. Even if they do a great job at their tasks. Working in a company isn't just getting the work done, it's how it's done and the impact it has on others. An asshole is a cancer and should be removed from an organization immediately.

Here are a few examples of where I don't think you should fire someone. You have an employee that is sick and misses critical deadlines. I encourage people to put the welfare of employees first and to help them get better, not fire them.

An employee is missing a core skill to doing a job. Be patient and get them the necessary training if they have the intellectual capabilities and desire to perform well. This is the one place in certain environments where it makes sense to put a performance plan in place. Agree on the plan with the employee and at the end, the employee should be fired or given a clean slate.

The employee that's really slow. This is a hard one. If the person is a great team fit and brings value in other ways than pure productivity, keep them. If they are slow and nobody likes them, fire them.

As an employer and manager, it's a good idea to remember that you're part of a team. Teams need people to fill various roles. All employees are not stars, nor should they be, but, each employee should fill a role and add value. If they don't add value in any way then they should be let go.


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