7 Signs That It’s Time to Fire an Employee


It's time | EDI Staffing

No one likes to fire employees. For people working in human resources (HR), firing is one of the hardest parts of the job. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important.


A good team is the key to success for any business, and it’s not fair to the company or to other employees to have someone who’s holding you back. Firing should be handled with care, but it should not be avoided once it’s clear that it needs to happen.


But when does it become clear, exactly? Here are 7 signs that it’s time to fire an employee.


Performance is down (and not improving).

Everyone has bad days (or even weeks). Personal issues, a huge workload, health problems, and the like can contribute to temporary poor performance. But if you have a team member who is constantly behind, or making significantly more mistakes than the rest of the team, and if the performance is not improving even after they’ve been given direct and honest feedback, it might be time to take action. 


A company policy has been violated.

Company policies exist for a reason. They keep everyone safe, create boundaries, and promote a productive office environment. If an employee violates any of your company policies, some form of disciplinary action should be taken. Depending on the severity of the violation, it may be a sign that it’s time to fire that employee. If an employee is having trouble following company policies in general, that could also be a sign that it’s time for them to go.


Coworkers are complaining.

A cohesive team is always going to be more productive than a divided one. If coworkers are frequently complaining about an employee—whether it’s about their work habits, their attitude, or anything else—you should consider whether or not the employee is contributing enough to make up for the drama they are causing. 


Customers are complaining.

If it’s important for coworkers to be happy with each other, it may be even more important for customers to be happy with the people they interact with on your team. Customer complaints about service or performance shouldn’t be ignored, especially if there are numerous complaints about the same problem (e.g. several customers complain that their calls were not returned, etc.). Providing excellent service to your customers is key for any company, so an employee who puts client relationships in jeopardy is not going to help you. 


They aren’t taking their job seriously.

This could manifest itself in any number of ways, but one of the most common is time management. Showing up late, leaving early, taking days off too frequently, taking excessively long lunches, or wasting time on the clock are all indicators that an employee isn’t giving their all to the job. 


You question their integrity.

Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Integrity is extremely important at all levels of business. If an employee’s integrity is in question—and especially if you’ve caught them in a lie—that should be a major red flag. 


They aren’t contributing in meaningful ways.

Every member of your team should contribute to the team’s overall success. If you have an employee who seems to have lost their drive, or their desire to contribute beyond the bare minimum, it could be a sign that they shouldn’t be working for you anymore. It’s even worse if an employee is starting to get lazy or cynical about their job, especially if they’re spreading that attitude to others. Make sure your team members are pulling their weight, and don’t be afraid to take action if someone is dragging everyone else down.


Related: Tips for Managing a Team Across Multiple Time Zones


Firing is not fun for anyone in HR. That said, firing people at the right time is an essential part of running a successful business. Take your cue from these signs, and when you do have to fire someone, take heart knowing you’re doing what’s best for the rest of the team and for the company overall.

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