Before You Fire That Problem Employee...

Chris Young
April 2, 2008 — 1,827 views  
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A large number of organizations have an unwritten policy of hiring quickly and firing slowly, and justify such actions with comments such as, “The position just needs to be filled…by anybody!” or “Let’s give Bill a few more months, maybe he will come around…” Actions such as these consistently rob an organization of possibility as hasty hiring decisions typically put the wrong people in the wrong seats within an organization where they are allowed to perform below expectations and sap an organization of productivity and morale. I have always felt it best to hire slowly - waiting patiently to identify the ideal candidate for a position, and fire quickly – eliminating poorly fit problem employees before they are allowed to fester within an organization. While I stand by this philosophy, I thought it would be beneficial to offer a few things to consider before pulling the trigger and terminating a problem employee. 1. Have performance expectations been clearly outlined and is the problem employee aware of them? Often the poor performance of an employee can be attributed to a failure by management to clearly establish and communicate performance objectives to the employee. 2. How well does the employee fit his or her position? Has the position been thoroughly analyzed to determine which type of personality traits are needed for a good fit in the position? The position should be analyzed to determine what behaviors the ideal employee should display, what values should motivate their behavior, and what personal skills are needed for success in the position. If the employee does not possess the right behaviors, motivation, and skills, chances are that no amount of coaching or encouragement will bring about the desired results. 3. Could the employee provide value and be better off in a different position or department within your organization? Given that many performance issues arise as the result of an employee who is simply not fit for the position they were hired for or promoted to, it is wise to carefully consider if he or she could be a valued contributor in another role within your organization. Failure in one role does not guarantee failure in a different role, and it may be more cost effective to reorganize than to rehire. Many organizations have the right talent; it is just not aligned in the right positions to achieve an organization’s goals. 4. Is a conflict between the employee and his or her manager prompting the push towards termination? Conflict between a manager and those they supervise is common. Managers often blame the employee for the conflict, labeling them as unruly, unmanageable, or uncooperative, when the real source of the problem is likely a communication problem caused by vastly different behavioral styles. In many cases awareness of the issue and understanding how a particular individual prefers to communicate can greatly reduce the level of conflict between and employee and his or her manager. The list above is by no means exhaustive. There are numerous issues that must be taken into consideration and documentation to perform before a prudent decision can be made to terminate an employee. However, in my experience the four items highlighted above are consistent causes of substandard performance that are often overlooked when the decision is made to terminate an employee. If you have addressed and documented the issues above and the team member is still posing problems, you know what you need to do… Help this individual find more meaningful employment elsewhere.

Chris Young


The Rainmaker Group is a human talent maximization company specializing in helping organization maximize their bottom lines by improving employee retention, hiring the best talent possible, and strategic talent management and coaching services. From the Fortune 50 corporation to the small medical office, The Rainmaker Group guarantees lasting organizational change via a unique blend of energy, insight, and science to maximize talent, transform organizational culture, and provide strategic intervention.