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Enough is Enough: Signs an Employee Should Be Fired and How to Go About It

By Tommy Wyher
Business.com / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Debating whether or not you should fire an employee? Take a look at these situations in which an employee should be terminated.

As a manager or owner of a business, there will come a time  when an employee will need to be let go.

There are obviously some situations in which the firing of an employee is an easy decision because of unacceptable offenses, like a “no call, no show” or gross violations of policy.

The harder decisions come when the person could be considered a friend or the employee has been decreasing in their productivity each year with no end in sight.

The borderline firings must be done very carefully, diligently following an outlined process. The following are some signs that an employee should be fired, and then how to do so.

Related Article: HR Horror Stories: What’s the Absolute Worst Thing You Could Do on the Job?

Average Production but Negative Attitude

Long-time employees can become negative about the direction of a company for one reason or another. The curmudgeon in the office can get a pass if they have excellent numbers and production.

With this being said, if a firing happens for the same type of behavior that includes negative attitude, you could leave yourself open to a wrongful termination or even workplace discrimination lawsuit that are guided by federal statutes.

Monitoring this type of negative talk is important for office morale, as even an excellent performer can be terminated  if the numbers  aren’t worth ruining the office energy.

A manager has to decide whether the attitude combined with the productivity makes it worth keeping somebody.

How to go about firing this person:

Make sure to give the employee a verbal warning and document this, as borderline firings can end up going to court. Your next step should be to write them up, then let them go.

At times, a person will get hostile, but it is important to diffuse the situation and end the conversation immediately. Things that are said during a firing can be used in court, and when firings get personal, it can be hard for  anyone to hold their tongue.

Any Type of Harassment

If an office has any type of Mad Men activities occurring, then prepare to be involved in a huge lawsuit, and possibly lose the respect of those in the industry.

Harassment of any type, whether it is sexual or workplace bullying, should never get a pass. It makes others uncomfortable and can even cause physical, mental and emotional harm.  

Creating and maintaining a safe and comfortable working environment is integral to optimizing production and boosting employee morale. Nobody should feel like they are the victim of workplace harassment, so firing this employee is a must.

How to go about it:

Getting the statements of those who have seen the harassment as well as the person being harassed is important. Harassment firings can be brought back in court if the proper documentations are not filed for wrongful termination.

The HR department should be involved from the first complaint of harassment. Make sure to redact the names from the paperwork if a warning is given.

If not, the victim could be subject to more harassment outside of work. Those who harass often times have more than one victim, so the filing of a complaint won’t implicate any specific person.

Related Article: 5 Things Your Manager Doesn't Want You to Know

Substance Abuse

It’s not rare for someone to be let go for substance abuse reasons. Some employers will help the person get help, with a job promised afterward. But this isn’t an option for all companies.

A person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work can lead to workplace violence or a loss of clients if they act inappropriatly when around them or communicating with them.

The employee’s productivity could suffer. Even if the employee’s performance remains good, by not taking action you could be communicating to the rest of the staff that coming in to work inebriated or high is fine as long as your numbers are great.

This isn’t the message a manager wants to send.

How to go about confronting and firing:

Speaking with the individual about the use of substances before or at work is important.

Most hiring paperwork has a clause about being a drug-free workplace, so this should be brought up in the meeting.

Drug testing this employee is important, but singling them out can leave a company susceptible to a lawsuit. Instead, make sure to test multiple people.

Social Media Nightmare

Somebody posting a sexist or racist tweet can reflect very poorly on a company. What can be even worse, though, is when a company doesn’t reprimand or fire this person.

Customers  might leave on account of a company allowing this type of behavior. Having a strict social media policy is important. Setting profiles to private doesn’t allow a person to post whatever they want; screenshots can be taken. Let the PR nightmare commence.

Confronting this person:

Most of the time, someone who is inappropriate on social media just needs to be warned. Most people will stop posting these things if it could cost them their job.

Taking screenshots and documenting these posts is important, as after a termination, these can be deleted and a lawsuit could be filed against the employer.

Another option is outlawing friending of customers on personal accounts, as well as asking employees not to display company affiliation on their personal account.

Related Article: With Power Comes Pain: The Downsides to Being the Boss

However, this tends to fail as a simple LinkedIn search will show where the person works.

Firing a person will never be an easy task. It is a decision that changes a company and a person’s life.

Take the appropriate steps and document everything. A great hiring and vetting process can help reduce firings, but they will never eliminate them, so consider this advice when letting someone go.


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