Knowing When It's Time To Fire Someone

You've coached.  You've done reviews.  You've given constructive feedback... and its just not working.  But..... you have a block on it. 

Firing an employee for performance is not easy, especially when the final decision rests with you.  Typically, we question ourselves and wonder, Did I not do a good enough job of managing & mentoring?  Are my expectations unrealistic?  Should I give him/her another chance?  Maybe this is my fault...

We carry this feeling in our gut that it's just not working, yet avoid taking the step we have to take to send the employee home.  Why is that?  Often the biggest barrier to firing someone is personalizing the decision and feeling bad that we are rejecting or judging them.  We might consider their family, or see them as a friend versus a "just business" relationship.  Our emotions overtake our logical side... and the guilt sets in.  Ultimately, we don't want to be the bad guy. 

In a situation like this, the key is to step outside of "the story" about the person and evaluate the cold hard business facts.  A question set to ask yourself is:

  1. Is the employee making you money or losing you money?  If the answer is losing you money, you have to stop the bleed.  The longevity of your company depends on it.  
  2. Is the employee successfully executing on the job you hired him/her to do?  If you objectively read their job description and can honestly say they are not executing effectively, you are hamstringing your company to keep them around.
  3. Is the employee making your life easier or harder?  This is a question we don't often ask ourselves, but when you do, it may open your eyes to the fact that this employee may be making you work way too hard to have them work for you.  This cuts into your ability to lead and drive company performance.
  4. Is the employee negatively impacting morale on the team?  The answer to this question absolutely matters.  If there is a cancer on the team causing low morale, it impacts the performance of the whole and puts you at risk for losing the talent you want to retain.  It could also demotivate the rest of the team if they see a clear employee problem and are aware that you aren't dealing with it.  Your action or inaction has a broader impact on everyone else.
  5. Knowing what you now know, would you hire this employee again today?  This question is the kiss of death.  If you are on the fence about some of the above questions but can answer this last question with a resounding nothen it is time to do something about it.


At end of the day, the rest of your team is counting on you to make the hard decisions that protect the best interest of the company.  Rather than focusing how being fired will impact the one individual, pivot your thinking to the rest of your employees.  They trust you to do right by them, protect them and protect the company.  Consider how hard you work to run a successful business, and how important it is that your company continues to thrive.  

In the words of John Maxwell, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way".  

It's perfectly okay to acknowledge your feelings on it, but then invite your business mind to take over.  Take the step you need to take as a leader and trust your own judgment.  While no one enjoys firing someone, it is actually an opportunity not just for business growth, but personal growth as well for both you and the employee.  The ending of one chapter signals the start of a new, even better one for all parties involved.  Your business (and possibly the rest of your employees) will thank you for it.