Leaders don’t enjoy firing people. They may feel relief after they’ve done so, but rarely joy. Even Donald Trump seems to feel a measure of regret when he says, “you’re fired!”
Leaders want to inspire their team members to improve and become success stories. They want to find a way—perhaps the only way—to turn struggling employees around. They see someone else’s failure as a personal challenge, and they can spend an inordinate amount of time devising new accommodations/training and weighing whether to reduce expectations or extend deadlines. As an executive coach, I know how much time leaders spend agonizing over firing. They don’t want to feel like they’ve failed themselves or others. But I’ve also seen how not firing people can severely undermine leadership.
Here are three (3) simple questions to ask if you’re weighing whether to fire someone:
- Is the employee motivated to change?
- Is the employee capable of making the change?
- Do I have the time and/or resources to support this change?
If the answer to any of these three questions is “No,” then it’s time to make the move or “make the employee redundant” (as the British would say).
If you want more justification for your decision, here are nine (9) fire-able offenses:
- Poor attendance/punctuality. If employees miss work or show up late, despite repeated warnings, they can’t be trusted.
- Poor results. If the employee’s work is substandard, you either need to lower the standard or find someone else who can meet it. Otherwise you’ll likely shift responsibilities to other competent workers and perhaps overburden them.
- He said, “She said….” Gossiping about others causes dissention and leads to poor morale. You need workers who communicate directly, instead of engaging in triangulating conversations.
- Poor progress. If they haven’t made measurable progress—despite a 360 assessment (or other clear feedback and expectations) and access to developmental training/other resources—they probably don’t have the initiative or the skills to succeed.
- Poor reports. What do others have to say about the employee? If a number of people you trust don’t have anything good to say about the employee, this person probably isn’t representing the organization well.
- No exceptional skill. If the employee didn’t arrive with an exceptional skill and, despite being with the organization for a while, hasn’t developed one, then it’s time for both parties to move on.
- Poor integrity. If employees fail to do what they say they’re going to do, they can’t be trusted.
- Abuse of power. Here are some signs of abuse of power: coercion, threats, verbal abuse, shedding of responsibilities, and manipulation of information or finances. Such abuse can harm or destroy an organization’s culture.
- Violation of company rules or culture. If employees don’t respect the organization’s rules or culture—knowingly and repeatedly—they should move on.