Job Categories


How to fire an employee who's holding you back

Donald Trump makes it look easy, but the words "you're fired" are always difficult to say. Letting an employee go is painful, and for many managers the process is fraught with sleepless nights and stomach-churning anxiety. But hanging onto the wrong people can ultimately make matters worse for you, your other employees, and your business.

Here's how to break the news firmly but gently, so you can put the rest of your team back on track.

Things you will need:
Nothing, unless you get into legal trouble, in which case it could cost a bundle.
Several months of planning (if possible) and then 15 minutes to do the deed.

Make note of the worker's performance record and keep any communications you have sent about missed benchmarks.

A Plan:
Map out when and where it will happen, who will be there, and what will be said. Have a strategy for continuing the worker's unfinished projects.

Make a list of items to collect, such as keys, laptop, and passwords.

HR Backup:
Enlist a staffer from human resources to brief the worker on continued health insurance, accrued vacation, and final pay.

Make sure the employee has been given ample opportunities to succeed
Before you lower the axe, ask yourself whether you should really let this person go and whether you've given them sufficient opportunity to redeem themselves. Will more training or guidance help? Is the problem the worker, or the work environment? Along the way, communicate expectations clearly—in person and in writing—and provide sufficient feedback so the worker knows where he stands.

Planning and documentation is key to letting someone go gracefully, and it's also the best way to avoid expensive litigation. It's tough to objectively document a worker's surly attitude, but you can address the issue in periodic employee review sessions. Keep copies of those reviews and document performance regularly, indicating how the worker was informed of your expectations, how he fell short, and whether or not he knew that continued failure would result in termination. Performance reviews are important, but no set number is needed. Just be sure to treat every worker equally and even-handedly:

Don't scold the underperformer for lateness if you let another worker get away with the same transgression.

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere
"A lot of employers fall into the trap of trying to flatter workers [in reviews] with the hopes that problems will go away,". "Workers think the boss is happy, and when they're fired that can create legal problems because they feel that the firing was discriminatory or unlawful."

Get over your guilt. Accept that you're doing the right thing and start preparing for the change

Once you're sure an employee isn't working out, act on that conclusion. "The longer it takes to fire someone, the more you're in danger of losing respect from the rest of the organization,". "Firing someone is never something we want to do, but it's inevitable, and if you're a leader it's something you're going to have to get used to."

Nobody likes conflict, but while you dither, your company may lose customers, money, or productivity. Tolerating sub-par performance can also impact the morale of other employees. "Managing an underperformer drains resources," "Other employees will want to leave if they feel they're not being recognized while someone else is doing less and getting a break." It's better to spend your time filling an open position, than managing someone who shouldn't be in the job.

Don't forget continuity planning, and anticipate what you'll need to do to replace the employee or handle her work flow once she's gone. Will you need approval from anyone above you before firing the worker? Before asking other employees to fill in? Is there anyone you'll want to promote into the vacated position?

Put the Ball in Their Court
In many cases, when the skills, work ethic, or personality of a worker don't mesh with the rest of an organization, you may actually be doing them a favor by letting them go. In fact, they may know this as well. So before you fire someone, consider asking if they're really happy in their job, rating it on a scale of 1 to 10. Sometimes, employees will realize on their own that it's in their best interest to move on.

Reference: Jennifer Alsever
Courtesy: Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica,
Next week: Mapping out a strategy
© Copyright Jamaica Gleaner