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How Do You Know When to Fire Someone?

Category: The Growth Lab / 5 minutes to read
Author: Stephanie Heitman
Published: August 24th

How Do You Know When to Fire Someone?

Category: The Growth Lab / 5 minutes to read
Author: Stephanie Heitman
Published: August 24th

Part of running a great company is assembling a stellar team: one that works well together, has a good time, and exceeds goals for themselves and for the business. Of course, your goal is to hire amazing employees, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. 

No boss enjoys having to fire someone, and you may find yourself tempted to drag your feet or draw out the process. It’s not fun!  

Luckily, we heard from an expert business leader on some of the signs it’s time to make that tough decision and let someone go. Jenny Thompson, CEO and Founder of SafetyPIN Technologies, shared these signs on an episode of The Growth Lab Show along with her script for firing someone (which you can listen to on the show below!). 

So, what are the signs it’s time to let someone go? 

They’re Not Pulling Their Weight 

We’ve all heard the saying “one bad apple ruins the bunch,” right? This is so true when it comes to an employee who’s not pulling their weight. 

When someone shirks their responsibilities – whether it’s out of laziness or a lack of skill – it quickly creates resentment among the dedicated members of your team. These more invested employees end up picking up the slack and feeling as if they’re being punished for being good at their jobs. It’s bad enough to have one bad employee, but once you start making the good ones upset, you’re well on your way to creating a toxic work environment. 

If you do have someone who isn’t meeting your standards, have a talk with them. Be open and honest about your concerns and expectations. Give them a chance to redeem themselves, and if they’re struggling (rather than simply loafing), offer to provide them with the training and tools they need to get better. If things haven’t gotten better by the next quarter, then it’s time to part ways. 

They’re Not the Right Fit 

Every company has its own culture. Whether you run a tech startup (with free kombucha on tap and an open “bring your dog to work” policy) or a law firm (where your team all wears full suits every day), you want to find employees who feel at home in your environment. 

A bad cultural fit makes it difficult for you to get the best work out of the individual for your team to collaborate effectively and for the individual to feel fully comfortable as part of your business. It’s a lose-lose-lose for all parties involved, but sometimes employees are hesitant to leave – even if they know it’s not quite right – because of a reluctance to face a job hunt. 

Again, a frank conversation is warranted here. Be honest about why you’re letting the employee go and give them an opportunity to ask questions. If they were a good worker but just not the right fit, offer to support them in their job search by tapping into your network or serving as a professional recommendation. 

They’re Doing Something Bad 

Sometimes, the decision to fire someone is more straightforward. If someone is doing something that’s illegal or harmful (either to the business or other employees), this is a clear-cut reason to let them go. 

There should be no hesitation on your part in these instances. Someone who is doing something illegal is a threat to your business and your other employees, so they should be terminated quickly. It’s also a good idea to get your legal team involved, if you have one, and make sure that you or your HR partner is thoroughly documenting the infractions and the firing process. 

No employer relishes having to let an employee go. Sometimes you hesitate because you don’t want to hurt your employee's feelings or finances or because you keep telling yourself they’re not really that bad. 

In the end, you should be asking this one question whenever you’re trying to decide what to do: “If this person walked into my office today and told me they were resigning, would I feel relieved?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to let them go. If the answer is that you would panic and be totally lost without them, then decide how much money you’d pay them to stay, and offer it to them right now. That’s direct advice from Jenny! Get more from her on her episode on our website or Apple Podcasts. And, download the Lab Notes to get her tips to rethinking the way you analyze your business.

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