Five signs it’s time to fire a problem employee

Do you have a problem employee? Someone who continues to disobey instructions, miss targets or disrupts your business? Here are five signs it may be time to fire them. 

One of the most difficult tasks faced by a manager is reprimanding and dealing with tough employees. However, if you want to run an efficient and happy team or business, there are times that you will need to have difficult conversations.

In some cases, a conversation will be enough, and the situation that led to it will be resolved. But what happens when this isn’t the case? When an employee continues with behaviour that is unhelpful or downright destructive?

Five signs it’s time to fire a problem employee

While letting someone go someone is never pleasant, it’s unavoidable at times. To help you recognise when that is, here are five signs it’s time to fire a problem employee.

1) Their behaviour is getting worse

When you confront an employee about a behaviour or performance issue, it’s quite common to monitor their progress and behaviour afterwards to see if it’s a persistent issue.

Most employees will react by taking the initiative to improve upon their performance and eradicate any ongoing issues.

However, if you find that your efforts to help an employee are met with anger, disinterest, or even worse behaviour, it’s a sign that their time with your company may be coming to an end.

The workplace can sometimes be treated like a schoolyard, and employees will try and push the boundaries of what is acceptable if they are allowed to get away with it. If an employee questions your authority in this situation, it’s a clear indication that the problem won’t any better, and it’s wise to let them go before their attitude affects their colleagues.

2) Productivity is down

A continued decline in productivity is a sign that an employee’s love for their work has gone – or that there are other issues at play. And if you don’t see an improvement after a chat with them, and support has been offered, it could be time to part ways.

The chances are, their lack of productivity hasn’t gone unnoticed by their colleagues either. Indeed, it’s probably had a negative knock-on effect on their work too. They may have had to pick up some of the slack, or found that their work has slowed down or been reduced in quality thanks to their colleague’s lack of care or effort.

It takes just one weak link in a company to initiate a dip in productivity or quality, so it’s important to act fast if all other avenues have been pursued.

3) Office morale has been affected

If just one employee is not pulling their weight, or is causing other problems in the workplace, it can quickly impact morale.

Negativity and disinterest is like a virus, and one that can spread quickly if its not kept in check. So keep an eye on the atmosphere at work, and if you sense that it’s starting to take a downward direction, find out why.

Is anyone disillusioned? Dissatisfied with their work, role or the company as a whole? Or struggling with personal issues that are leaking into their performance and attitude at work?

Or is anyone not doing their fair share? Are they leaning too much on their colleagues? Or even playing mind games with people? (Check they don’t fit one of the five types of toxic colleagues.)

If you are aware of someone who is negatively impacting workplace morale, have a documented chat with them, and explain how their mood and attitude is influencing the overall morale of the company. Find out if they need support or help, and monitor the situation from there.

If things don’t get better, or they refuse to co-operate and continue to impact on their colleagues, it may be time to consider your options.

4) You are receiving complaints from clients and customers

To run a successful business you don’t just need to monitor workplace morale; you need to ensure your clients and customers are happy too. And if you are continually receiving complaints from yours about a particular member of staff then you need to act.

It’s unacceptable to have an employee who damages professional relationships and the reputation of your business, and if this behaviour is an ongoing issue for a particular employee, it’s grounds to let them go.

5) They have had more than one chance

As an employer, you will build rapport and have your own relationships with your employees, so it can often be difficult when you have to make the decision to let them go.

However, if you have given somebody more than one opportunity to redeem themselves or to improve but have found that no progress is being made, then it’s time to put your business’ needs above your wish to be liked, or your sympathy for them, and consider letting them go.

Alice Porter is an employment professional and works for the Employment Lawyers in Manchester.

Photo by Eutah Mizushima