How to know when it’s time to fire

Not all employee problems are worthy of termination. Here’s a brief checklist to help you decide if firing is the next right step:

  • Discover and identify the problem: The first step is to be clear with yourself and your staff member about what the problem is. Sometimes the problem is easy to identify such as if the employee is consistently late. But when it feels amorphous such as when the employee does a good job but they do it with an attitude, or you never know when their mood will go from sunny to tempestuous, spend some time identifying exactly how the issue creates a problem in your workspace. This way, you can be specific in conversations with the employee.
  • Consider the employee’s interaction with other staff and customers: If you’ve got an employee that is generally a good fit with your company or delights your customers, you might decide it’s worth investing some extra time with them. Ideally, you can keep a good team player on board and coach them through any issues that are occurring.
  • Train and coach to correct: Sometimes, people just don’t know there’s a problem. It’s not safe to assume that the employee thinks they’re willfully doing something wrong. Sit down, discuss the issues using the clear examples you uncovered in step one. Create and implement a plan to bring the employee from where they are to where you want them to be.
  • Trust your instincts: This can sometimes be scary, but instincts are usually much better than we give them credit for. Once, early in my time as an entrepreneur, I hired someone who looked terrible on paper. She said all the wrong things in the interview. Any right-thinking manager would have walked away. I hired her. I had a good feeling about her and her fit for the work we were doing. She was one of the best employees I ever had. I learned early in my career that instincts are an excellent asset.
  • When it’s time: When you’ve clearly stated the problem, coached the employee without desired results and you feel that the time is right, be sure to prepare. Cover yourself legally to limit potential repercussions. Make a plan for the workload and how you’ll cover the fired employee’s responsibilities until you can hire new staff. Finally, when you do let them go, never make it personal. You’re firing them because they had a problem and weren’t able to correct it through the coaching sessions.