HR Tips

Top Five Signs it’s Time to Let an Employee Go

Reasons to fire an employee include disciplinary and performance issues that you cannot solve. Here are the top five reasons to fire an employee.

Lack of Integrity

An employee may lack integrity whereby you’ve caught them in repeated lies or underhanded actions. Lies by commission, omission, and obfuscation can chip away at the trust you have for an employee.

An employee may believe that one little lie won’t hurt their standing with the organization, but even the smallest lie or untruth, when discovered, can diminish your regard for the employee. And, because organizational teams are so entwined, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll 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 him or her look bad. When an employee fails to share the whole picture, you are often blindsided when you receive the rest of the information from another source.

The third way employees chip away at your belief in their integrity is through obfuscation. They may believe that if they muddy the water enough, or overwhelm you with details, then you may not see that their performance has been subpar.

Once an employee establishes 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.

Unable to Do the Job Due to Incompetence

If an employee, after training, coaching, repeated practice, and a reasonable amount of time receiving feedback, demonstrates that they are not capable of performing the fundamental requirements of the position, it’s time to fire the employee.

Of course, you can decide to try the employee out in a different position, change the requirements of the current job, or create a performance improvement plan. However, bear in mind that the more time you commit to the employee, the more money it’ll cost for development and training. It may be more prudent to let a person go early on when you see the lack of ability. Remember that you hire for today’s job and tomorrow’s vision.

Unable to Work in the Culture

An employee may demonstrate that they just don’t fit the corporate culture. For example, the employee may not be a team player or work well with others. Of course, any employer wants diverse approaches, thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds to provide innovative and creative solutions. However, a fundamental set of shared values is the glue that binds employees together in productive teams and workgroups.

A new employee should be able to demonstrate that they can fit into the existing culture quickly. For example, let’s say a new developer at a software company claimed during their interviews that they were a team player and liked to work as part of a team. They may have even cited successful college team projects as an example. But when the employee comes on board, it’s evident that the employee doesn’t work well with others, is combative, defensive, and uncooperative. As a result, it may be necessary to let the employee go.

Showing Up Late or Missing Work

Whether it’s showing up late for work or not finishing a project as predicted, you cannot depend on this kind of commitment-phobic employee. Of course, 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 the boss, lets their teammates down, and is not available to deliver what coworkers expect, and need. 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 work.

Code of Conduct Violations

Every employer has the right to expect employees to act ethically as defined in the company policy as well as the code of conduct. This includes such behaviors as accepting gifts from vendors when company policy forbids it, developing inappropriate relationships with customers, and not treating co-workers as equals 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
  • Accepting a bribe from a vendor or customer

All of 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.

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