Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & Employee Relations & HR Issues & HR Policies /

There are a very small number of people in this world who enjoy the act of letting someone know that they no longer have a job, but unfortunately it’s something that must be done from time to time to maintain a top performing business.

Earlier this year we posted an article to the blog that spurred up quite a bit of interest. This post was titled –What’s a Nice Employer Like You Doing With an Employee Like That? Given its wonderful reception from our readers we’re going to wind the clock back a little bit today and revisit the theme of this article and of course expand on its points.

Odds are, unless you’re operating with only a few employees, your organization has at least one or two bad apples in the mix.  In fact, I’m willing to bet you thought of them (gasp!) when you read the title of this article. Don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault – they’re everywhere. But as a decision maker it is your responsibility to do something about it and you will be at fault if you don’t take remedial action.

So, Why Do Employers Keep Poor Performers Around?

Maybe this particular person has been there so long that their poor performance is expected – like the avid golfer from the last article who sneaks out every Friday afternoon to get a quick round in before dark.

But is the fact that expectations are set so low for this person any reason to keep them? Is that fair to your other employees?

Ask Yourself – If you were given the choice to hire this person right now based on their current performance and behavior… would you?

If the answer is no, then from a rational, completely objective, and unemotional business continuity standpoint, why do you keep this employee? Think about it.

Perhaps this person knows so much about the company and the position that you let their poor behavior and performance slide because it would be a huge undertaking to replace them. Ok. Fair enough. This is a legitimate concern. But consider this…

  1. How much productivity are you losing by allowing this to continue?
  2. Is their behavior and performance preventing them from sharing any of the knowledge that they have?
  3. How much further is the atmosphere of your company damaged by allowing this person to remain? The ripple effects may be more extensive than you think.
  4. How much more risk is taken on each day by letting this situation continue (think discrimination suits, neglect of their work, non-compliance, etc)?
  5. What other employees are you at risk for losing by allowing this person stay?

Each day the hole this person is digging gets deeper. Odds are by ignoring this situation it only gets worse with time. It’s a near certainty that the costs of keeping this person around far outweigh the cost of replacing them. Even if those first few weeks after they’re gone might be a bit chaotic, things almost always work out for the better.

I can all but guarantee that the atmosphereric change once this person is gone will more than compensate for any immediate loss of their production.  And if you’re so worried about the emotions involved or the relationships that may be damaged by the termination, don’t fret. We’ll give you some pointers on that in the next article.

What If They Go to a Competitor or Decide to Sue Us?

Maybe you’re afraid of the internal knowledge your future former employee could take to a competitor. Maybe you’re afraid they’ll find some reason to bring litigation against you. Again, all legitimate concerns, but there are ways around this, and in all cases the long-term benefits of taking action probably outweigh the short term costs of what MIGHT happen.

Additionally, there are ways to arm yourself against such action. Hopefully you are already implementing Confidentiality agreements with employees who have access to such information.  There are also times when Non-Competition agreements are necessary.  We often utilize Severance and Release Agreements when employees are terminated, which basically has them commit to not holding the company liable for any wrongdoing regarding their termination prior to receiving a severance package. (Of course, these agreements are very detailed and need to legally specific.  We recommend you use one that has been approved by your corporate attorney who, after all, is the person who will have to defend it.)

No Time or Process to Recruit a Replacement

Maybe you’re ready to pull the plug, but don’t have the time to recruit a good replacement, or don’t know how to go about doing it. The thing to ask yourself is “If not now, when?” and “If I wait, how much more damage will be done?”

There’s a simple answer to that dilemma (please excuse the shameless self-promotion). Hire someone to help your recruiting. You’ve probably got better things to do than read through a mound of resumes anyway, and experienced recruiters use methodologies and tools that increase the quality of your candidates substantially. That way you won’t end up back in the same situation you’re already in.

There are a multitude of other excuses employers give not to terminate someone. Most of them are exactly that – excuses.

Bottom line is – if someone is no longer a positive contribution to your company and you can either do without them or replace them by yourself or with someone’s help, it’s time for them to go.

Is _________ a positive contribution to your company? If not, it may be time to pull the plug.

Be on the lookout next time for strategies about how to properly terminate someone when you need to. Feel free to post questions in the comments until then.

PS: If you are going to terminate someone, make sure you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, get help. It can be a sticky process if done incorrectly. We’ll be happy to help if you need assistance.

Are You Struggling to Find Employees That Will Contribute Positively to Your Workplace?Download Our HR 101 Toolkit Today for Help.

It’s no secret. Offices run better and are more productive with employees who are not only skilled and know the job well, but are willing to work together in a cohesive team environment.

It’s not hard to find someone who can do the job. The difficult part is finding those who can do the job, AND fit your team.

Download Our HR 101 Toolkit today to find your answers.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.