Have you ever had to fire employees? It can be an uncomfortable task for business owners. To avoid admitting they made a mistake in hiring a poor employee in the first place, they may delay or make excuses instead of firing them. They may want to give this employee additional chances to succeed rather than give them a pink slip. They may even reason that the performance of the person they know, even though it is poor, is better than a new one they don't know.
However, these delay tactics can hurt the growth of a company just as bad employees can hold other team members back. Since the strength of every business is in their people, these bad employees don't give the business their best chance at success. High-performing employees can be important to building a profitable business.
When to Fire Employees
Employees who don't get the work done or support a company's culture aren't a neutral asset—in fact, they can be a big liability. The business may actually grow by letting go of these low-performing people. I believe business owners should only keep employees whose personal career objectives match the company's goals. Once their objectives deviate from what the company needs to be successful, it may be time to part ways with that employee. This can be beneficial for both parties and may help the company grow to the next level.
Consider taking these tips into consideration if you have to fire employees.
1. Know their reputation.
When you have employees who are doing a bad job, it's likely that everyone in the company notices. This can become apparent when no one wants to work with them on projects because they will have to do most of the work.
If a poor employee isn't doing their share, it can hurt the company's morale and profits.
2. Stop letting them hurt your company culture.
More often than not, bad employees work under a different set of rules than other employees.They may disregard company policies; openly defy instructions; and run counter to company culture, mission and values. Other employees may start to mention them by name when they decide not to follow a certain company policy.
Marketing expert Seth Godin characterizes these types of people as vampires. "[They] feed on negativity, on shooting down ideas and most of all, on extinguishing your desire to make things better," he writes. "Don't buy into the false expectation that in an organizational democracy, every voice matters. Every voice doesn't matter—only the voices that move your idea forward..."
3. Apply the "cringe factor."
The cringe factor is a method to help determine who should be fired. Ask yourself the question: “Which employees makes me cringe every single time I sign their payroll check?"
Alternately, if that employee left, how would it affect the company? Depending on your answers, you've identified an employee to fire. Additionally, if your spouse or family knows these poor performing employees by name because of your constant complaining, this can also be a clue. Consider asking yourself, “Why are they still with the company?"
If profit is the reason you are in business, remember that non-performing employees subtract from that equation.
How to Fire Employees
It can be difficult to fire anyone, especially when you personally know the family they need to support. You may also fear legal or organizational repercussions that could be harmful to growing your business.
That said, the following tips can help you figure out how to fire employees in a way that helps your company.
1. Aim, function, fire.
When firing an employee, consider doing it on your timeline, not theirs. Consider having a description of everything that person does and the skills it takes to accomplish those tasks. Then you can identify who within the organization can take over these tasks or hire a person to replace them, even if only on an interim basis.
This may also be a good time to determine why certain people are doing certain jobs and if the task distribution is still effective.
2. Get legal cover.
There may be legal actions the fired employee may take against the company. Most states have “at-will employment," which states that an employer can fire the employee for any non-discriminatory reason. Nonetheless, you may want to consult an attorney before any termination.
3. Do it quickly.
No one likes to fire employees—it can be physically debilitating. But if it's necessary, consider doing it swiftly and with another manager present first thing in the morning. You may also want to:
- give few explanations that can legally come back to haunt you later
- offer a week's severance for every year of service
- turn off their computer access immediately to company systems
- gently escort them out of the office—nothing can be accomplished by having them stay for additional days
- announce the termination to the entire staff, and avoid giving an explanation of the termination that can get you in trouble later.
Typically, making a decision to fire employees now can be less costly for the company. It may even make it easier for it to move on and grow later.
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