Reasons to fire an employee include disciplinary and performance issues that you cannot solve - no matter how hard you try. But, additional reasons exist to fire an employee that are not resolvable. Here are my top five reasons to fire an employee.
An employee lacks integrity and you have caught him or her in repeated lies or underhanded actions. Lies by commission, omission, and obfuscation chip away at the trust you have for an employee.
An employee may believe that one little lie won’t hurt his standing with the organization, but even the smallest lie or untruth, when found out, does chip away at your regard for the employee. And, because organization happenings are so entwined, you generally will find out that the employee lied.
Lies of omission are just as deadly in chipping away at trust. In a lie of omission, the employee fails to give you particularly relevant pieces of information. Or, the employee leaves out the part of the story that will make her look bad. When an employee fails to share the whole picture, you are often blindsided when you receive important information from an external source.
The third way employees chip away at your belief in their integrity is through obfuscation. They think that if they muddy the water enough or overwhelm you with details that you may not see that the project is way behind and derailing.
Once an employee established these patterns of behavior with his employer, the trust dissolves. When you no longer trust an employee, it’s time to let the employee go. It is not your job to follow him around, check up with others to make sure his story is true, or seek out details that he may not be sharing.
The employee can’t do the job. If an employee, after training, coaching, repeated practice, and a reasonable amount of time to receive feedback, demonstrates that she cannot perform the fundamental requirements of the position, it is time to fire the employee.
Sure, you can decide to try the employee out in a different job, change the requirements of the current job, or create a performance improvement plan. But, it’s a lot easier to let a person go early in your relationship. You experience less loss as an employer because the employee has not had time to establish the relationships and networks that enable her to accomplish work.
Additionally, think about whether the inability to meet the goals of the current job is reflective of the overall skills and abilities of the employee. An employee who struggles in his first job is likely to repeat the same pattern in his next. If so, are you sure that this is an employee that you wish to retain for the future? Remember that you hire for today’s job and tomorrow’s vision.
The employee demonstrates that she doesn’t fit your culture. Yes, diverse approaches, thoughts, experience, and background are what keep work interesting, innovation strong, and the business profitable. But, a fundamental set of shared values is the glue that binds employees together in productive teams and work groups.
A new employee quickly proves that she can fit the existing culture. If you ignore the signals that the new employee sends, you have a more difficult path to pursue later when you need to let the employee go. For example, a new developer at a software company claimed during the interviews that he was a team player and that he liked to work as part of a team. He cited successful college team projects as an example.
But, when the employee came on board, he was a loner who preferred to code alone in silence. He avoided shared libraries of code and didn’t enjoy collaborating with his product team. In an environment where the development team is the basic functional unit, this new employee quickly demonstrated that he was unwilling to play on the team.
The employee fails to keep commitments. Whether it’s showing up for work on time or finishing a project as predicted, you cannot depend on the employee. Sure, everyone misses the occasional deadline, but the best employees keep their boss informed about the challenges along the way and renegotiate due dates as needed.
The employee who fails to keep commitments blindsides his boss, lets his team mates down, and is not available to meet when coworkers expect him – and need him. A department or job is like a cog in a wheel. The other parts of the organization depend on the output of each employee to produce their own work.
For example, a company is prepared to launch a new product and coworkers find out that the literature for the trade show kickoff, changes to the website, and updates to the company store are two weeks behind the launch date. As a result, the new product has no momentum as it is introduced to the world of potential buyers. With an employee who fails to keep commitments, this is just the starting salvo. Time to move on.
The employee behaves unethically and ignores the company code of conduct. Every employer has the right to expect employees to act ethically and in the way defined in company policies and the code of conduct. This includes such behaviors as accepting gifts from vendors as company policy dictates, developing relationships with customers as policy allows, and treating coworkers as equals and with respect.
Examples of unethical behavior include:
- Any harassment or bullying of a coworker.
- Accepting gifts that exceed the gift policy guidelines.
- Promoting lavish spending by employees who are attending a conference or entertaining customers.
- Taking a bribe from a vendor.
More examples of unethical behavior that employees have the opportunity to avoid every day.
These behaviors can and should result in employment termination for the employee. Anything else is disrespectful of your other employees and will breed cynicism and ill will. This is the opposite of the spirit and culture you want to offer employees at work.