5 Signs it May Be Time to Fire a Problematic Employee

In order for your small business to remain successful, you have to make tough yet effective decisions. As a small business owner, part of those decisions entails the hiring and deciding the time to fire staff. While it may be a challenging–sometimes emotionally painful–decision to make at times, the truth is your business will only be as successful as your weakest link. Having an employee on staff that is incapable of completing the tasks assigned to them, acts in an unprofessional manner, or shows lack of growth and participation can easily start to weigh heavily on the reputation of your company and stunt growth as an organization.

time to fireKnowing When It’s Time To Say Goodbye

When you’re a newly developed business, it can be particularly challenging to discern when an employee needs a little motivation, and when it is essentially time to let them go. While they may be a great person overall, if they are not an asset to your company, you are essentially paying to hinder your own company’s growth. Naturally, giving employees a warning and second chance is the civil thing to do, but when warnings and second chances fall on deaf ears, something has got to give.

Below, are five warning signs that you need to fire a problematic employee.

Warnings Are Falling on Deaf Ears

Most business owners have some form of policies and procedures for their staff to adhere to. There is also a process for when the policies are not met. This might include a verbal warning, written warning, and even a probationary period. If you have gone through the process but still see no improvements from the employee in question, you’re going to need to let them go. It’s that simple.

Decreased Productivity: When is the Time to Fire?

Have you found that an employee is not as productive as he or she once used to be? Are they falling behind on assignments, not following through on demands, or simply missing deadlines? While one instance may be justifiable, if this is a continual behavior, you should probably think about firing this employee.

Another aspect to consider about productivity is the staff as a whole. Have you noticed that this particular employee is always in need of help, which causes others to fall behind on their work? Do you find yourself backtracking on the work they’ve allegedly completed fixing errors? Productivity as a whole is extremely imperative to the growth of your business, and if one employee is holding the whole team back, that is a clear sign that it’s time to fire that person.

Low Workplace Morale

While you might not believe this to be possible, one employee can change the entire morale of a working environment in an instance. A dissatisfied or unmotivated employee will begin to vent to other employees about their concerns. Employees that may have otherwise been great workers and highly motivated are suddenly bogged down by this onset of “gloom” from the problematic employee. Whether their morale is low because they’re tired of hearing about the complaints of the other employee, or the “gloom and doom” feelings have started to rub off on them, it can be chaotic to deal with an entire team of unmotivated staff. It is best to remove the bad energy before it grows into something more unmanageable.

Time to Fire: Mutiny

It goes without saying that employees will not always agree with the direction management is taking. They might not like a particular assignment that they’ve been tasked with. At the same time, there is a very thin line between constructive criticism and mutiny. An employee that repetitively undermines management or talks bad about authority figures in the workplace can become toxic fast. There are different levels of mutiny. These include deleting pertinent information from company databases and even making changes without going through the proper channels. Allowing this to continue can easily cause an issue with your organization’s reputation going forward.

Customer or Client Complaints

The last and final straw with any problematic employee should be the onset of customer or client complaints. Your customers and clients are what make your business successful. Negative reviews and reputations can go viral in an instant and take a great deal of time to overcome. It is understandable that you won’t please every customer you have. However, if the complaints become more consistent or are constantly about the same questionable employee, this should be the biggest warning sign that it’s time to part ways.

There is a saying, “hire slowly, fire fast.” Hire slowly means to take your time to find the right fit team member. Get very clear on their role and train them well. The fire fast part means that when you get that sinking feeling in your gut that your employee is not working out, that is the time to act. Your instinct is usually right, and the sooner you respond and let them go, the better for all involved.

Secure Your Business After Firing an Employee

Once you’ve made the decision to fire a problematic employee, you’ll need to take some precautions to safeguard your business. It is imperative to ensure that you’ve secured your company’s databases and important information. This is true even if you had them sign non-compete and non-disclosure contracts. This process ensures that this employee cannot tamper with or share any important company information.

There are other steps to take to secure your business as well. These include removing access and permissions to company emails, changing access codes, and informing security of the changes you’ve made to staffing. While you’d like to hope that an employee will act civilly in this manner, no one can know for sure.

The topic of terminating an employee is never an easy one to consider. At times it is necessary for the overall success of your company. In my many years as the owner of 10 different businesses, I’ve fired and hired many employees.  It is my least favorite thing to do in a business. Yet, what I have realized over the years, is that if they are not a fit for you, you are not a fit for them either and it’s better that they find a place to work where they can thrive.  While the initial firing process might seem cruel, in time you will see how it benefits the team as a whole as well as the growth of your company.

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Allison Maslan

Allison Maslan

Allison Maslan, CEO of Pinnacle Global Network, is the Wall Street Journal Best Selling Author of Scale or Fail, which is endorsed by Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank. Allison’s built 10 successful companies starting out at age 19.

Now she and her team of CEO Mentors pay it forward by helping business owners scale their companies, fast-track their success, and create a more meaningful life. Pinnacle Global Network, a world leader in scaling companies and empowering business leaders has guided thousands of CEO's and Founders to success over the past decade. Allison’s been featured in Inc., Success, Fortune, Fast Company, and Forbes Magazines, is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, and a featured expert on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox across the US. She is also the host and producer of The Scale or Fail Show podcast, and the Women Who Own it Podcast in partnership with WBENC, the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in North America.

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