No one likes firing employees. It’s a difficult decision, but any HR manager or business owner will eventually have to make the choice to do what’s best for the company. While it’s important to give problem employees a chance to improve, there may eventually reach a point at which the only option is to let an employee go.

But how do you know when it’s time to fire an employee?

They Don’t Improve

If an employee isn’t meeting your expectations, it’s important to let them know. Provide feedback and training as needed and give the employee opportunities to correct their mistakes, whether they’re producing poor-quality work or behaving badly in the workplace. It’s when no improvement is made or when the employee has no interest in improving that you may consider firing as the next step.

They Bring Down Other Employees

When an employee’s behavior or lack of work ethic affects other employees, it’s a sign that it’s time to fire that employee. If one employee can bring down the morale of the entire office, department, or even company, and the behavior hasn’t improved, then it’s time for that employee to go. The other employees will thank you for it and will be happier, less stressed, and more productive for it.

They Affect Productivity

If a poorly-performing employee isn’t improving, despite corrections and opportunities to do so, that can affect the productivity of your other employees as well. If one employee fails to complete his or her part of a project or doesn’t provide needed information to coworkers in a timely fashion, the productivity of the entire office can fall. Ridding the company of the unproductive employee will give you the opportunity to replace him or her with someone who will do the job right.

They’re Often Late or Absent

If an employee is regularly late to or absent from work or takes extended breaks, that’s something that can’t be left unaddressed. Employees that are frequently absent are equally unreliable. Perhaps they call in sick too frequently or use up their allotted vacation time too early in the year. These are signs that the employee may have problems with attendance.

Your other employees will notice the behavior and at best, believe their coworker is unreliable. At worst, they may believe the company is tacitly encouraging such behavior by failing to correct it. This could cause productive and timely employees to lose productivity and morale and even consider moving to a company that didn’t allow such bad behavior.

How to Fire a Problem Employee

Once you’ve decided to fire an employee, it’s important to do it right. If your company has a policy on the number of opportunities to improve each employee gets before they’re let go, make sure you’ve followed that policy exactly. Once the employee has reached the requisite number of “strikes” and you don’t see any hope of improvement, make sure that you have thoroughly documented the problem behavior. This can help you avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit.

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