Leadership + Management | By Scott Schulte,

Is it Time to Fire Someone?

Firing people isn’t fun.

And because of that simple fact, company leaders, owners, and managers will often allow certain employees to hang around way longer than they should. Even when it is completely obvious to everyone that they are no longer a good fit.

Why does this happen?

In many cases, it’s simply a matter of weak leadership, and not wanting to own up to the toughest, most unpleasant parts of the job. But sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it’s personal.

As team leaders, we can become so connected to our employees that we develop a sense of obligation. We know them as people. More than that, we like them as people. So we choose to keep them on staff, despite their poor performance. We fail to take action. We look the other way. We sigh and hope for the best.

While this kind of empathy may seem like a good thing, it can also be bad for your business.

Doing the right thing

As a company leader, your first obligation has to be keeping the organization healthy, and a healthy organization requires everyone on the team to be contributing.

If, as an employer, you aren’t taking care of your business, it will only be a matter of time before you are unable to take care of the people who work there. And that’s not good for anyone.

You have a responsibility to every individual on the team. The success of your company is tied to the success of your employees. And vice-versa.

You must hold everyone accountable. Including yourself. Your responsibilities include:

Communicating the company culture, values, and direction

Setting clear expectations for every individual to contribute

Giving meaningful feedback and managing employee performance

Providing the training, coaching, and resources to allow everyone to contribute successfully

And when you have an individual who isn’t willing or able to contribute to the team, you have a responsibility to either find that person another position within the organization or terminate his/her employment.

Yes, it’s tough

No one said it was easy. But keeping underperforming or toxic employees around isn’t good for anyone. It’s a frustration for leadership, a headache for HR, and a morale-buster for staff. At the end of the day, the cost of not firing someone can be very high. And the longer you let things go, the more expensive it gets.

So how do you know when it’s time?  Here are three ways to help you determine if someone needs to go.

  1. It should always be difficult to fire someone. If it isn’t, you waited too long.
  2. Other employees should always be a little surprised when someone is let go. If they aren’t, you waited too long.
  3. You should never be in a position to badmouth an employee who has left. If you are, you waited too long.

Not firing an employee might seem like the nice thing to do or the easy way out. But when you wait too long, not only do you allow poor employee performance to slow you down, you damage your own credibility with everyone on the team.

Your employees are counting on you to keep the company healthy, and that responsibility extends to your team, your company, and yourself. Sometimes, it includes sending some very nice, but very unproductive, people out the door.

It might not be easy, but it’s important.


At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. Located in Sunset Hills, MO, we help clients throughout Missouri and Illinois to identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. If you would like help managing your employee programs, we may be the insurance consultant and business partner you need.


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