5 Signs It’s Time to Let Go of an Employee and How to Do It
Firing an employee go can be a difficult decision. Every hire is an investment of time, energy, and capital. While you may wish poor performing employees would just quit, often that just doesn’t happen.
Smart hiring and firing is crucial to limit liability and maintain employee morale. The costs of a bad hire are huge. Holding on to the wrong employee can bring down the entire organization and impact customers, reputations, and your bottom line.
If you start noticing any of the following behaviors, keep a detailed record. Your documentation will support your choice to terminate the employee.
Whether intended or not, graffiti, vandalism, and damaging company property can be a terminating offense. Your employee handbook should say so. Just make sure that if you accuse an employee of such an offense, you have the evidence to back it up.
Drug and alcohol use will interfere with on-the-job performance. Employees who violate the drug and alcohol policy should be subject to discipline, up to and including termination.
Lisa always has an excuse. Not only is she late to work, she often misses her deadlines. Since she’s likable and talented, you ignored the problem at first. You sent her a message or two to try to arrive on time, and it worked, for a week or so. But after multiple messages and suggestions, the problem is only getting worse. After a client complains about missed deadlines, you know it’s time to fire Late Lisa.
Everyone is late occasionally, but habitual tardiness is unacceptable. No matter how likable or talented someone is, if repeatedly late for work, immediate actions need to be taken.
Ignoring or accepting chronic tardiness can cause resentment, lower team morale, and damage company work ethic. To nip this problem in the bud, develop a procedure for dealing with tardiness.
- Document all the rules and make sure you have a reasonable lateness policy in place. Lateness policies can be couched in Absence Management or Time and Attendance sections.
- Warn the employee that the rules apply to him or her just like everyone else. You may want to develop a Progressive Discipline Policy, which involves:
- Establishing Initial Expectations
- Verbal Warning/Coaching
- Written Warning/Coaching
- Final Written Warning
- Use a Web-Based Time and Attendance System to make time and labor management a lot easier.
Make sure you discuss the matter with the employee to determine the issue isn’t related to any legally protected status. For example, if the employee or family member has a serious health condition, leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (if eligible) may be warranted. In addition, an analysis under the Americans with Disability Act may be necessary.
If there is widespread employee lateness, consider holding a brief meeting to highlight the impact of tardiness and go through the company’s procedures for dealing with it. Answer any questions and begin to implement the policy in a fair and consistent manner.
Instances of employee theft, including fraud and embezzlement, may require termination. An investigation of the allegations should be conducted and evidence reviewed carefully. If the evidence establishes guilt, termination is likely warranted.
Toxic personalities that gossip, engage in negative talk, and spread dissent can harm the entire organization. You want strong leaders who encourage their fellow employees, not people who spread gossip and pick arguments with you or your co-workers.
Here are some toxic personality traits to keep on the lookout for:
- Stubborn, narrow minds
- Downers (pernicious negativity)
- Apathy and passivity
- Constant excuses and pointing the finger
- Hyper-emotional and dramatic
- Controlling and overbearing
Don’t let a bad personality drag everyone down. If progressive discipline doesn’t work, it’s time to terminate.
Causes for Immediate Termination
For many employee problems, you’ll want to initiate a Progressive Discipline Policy or Performance Improvement Plan. In many cases, however, immediate termination is the only option:
- Endangering employees
- Theft and fraud
- Criminal acts
- Negligence, leaking confidential information, and giving false information
- Sexual harassment
- Exceedingly poor work performance
- Inappropriate use of company resources
Before you terminate an employee, go over all the associated documentation, contact your legal counsel or HR representative, and make sure your case is supported by the evidence.
Most terminations are not clear cut. As such, it is important to approach the termination decision carefully. Investigate the misconduct, identify the exact policy violation, and determine whether termination is warranted based on the identified circumstances and the company's past practices.
Before terminating any employee, it is critical that you conduct an analysis of any potential "red flags" (e.g. protected class, possible retaliation, recent workers' compensation injury, recent leave of absence, etc.) relating to this employee that can potentially expose your company to a lawsuit.
No matter what your reasons are for firing an employee, it’s important to maintain your cool and establish a basic protocol when it comes to terminating employees.
When it’s time to terminate an employee, do it right to lessen legal liability. Depending on the circumstances, it may be best to consult an attorney.
You CANNOT Terminate an Employee for Unlawful Reasons:
- Title VII Discrimination
- State anti-discrimination laws with additional worker protections (e.g., preganancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious dress, obesity)
- Workers' compensation retaliation
Making the Hard Decision
- Review your documentation — go through the pre-termination checklist.
- Look out for red flags, such as leave of absence, workplace complaint, protected class, etc.
- Prepare to tell the employee.
- Avoid firing an employee on the spot.
- Identify the lawful, non-discriminatory cause(s) and/or specific reasonable rule or policy violation. Collect and document all of the facts.
- Make sure your reasons and facts are proven and corroborated. Confirm a fair investigation.
- Review the employee file for any prior documented disciplinary action.
- Has the rule or policy violation been applied fairly and consistently?
The following webinar covers how to properly document and discipline behavior fairly and consistently:
Don’t feel guilty about firing a bad employee. If someone is violating your policies and not correcting their behavior, it may be time to terminate.
Still, the termination decision can be difficult and fraught with potential legal issues. For questions or assistance with hiring and firing, contact Resourcing Edge at (214) 771-4411.