Deciding to Fire an Employee: Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

3 min read · 7 years ago


The decision to fire an employee for poor performance is a hard one. It may even keep you up at night. You may be looking for ways to keep them on or support them so you don’t have to “ruin their lives” by firing them.

But you have a responsibility to your organization, your other employees, and the objectives of your own job, so sometimes you need to do things you don’t really want to.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself before making the decision to let an employee go:

1. Have you given them a chance?

Not only does your company likely have policies in place for dealing with performance issues, it is only fair that you give the employee a chance to improve.

First, determine if they are aware of their specific performance problems and what is needed to improve. Have you helped them to improve or given them the tools or training they need to get better at their job? If yes, what has been the results of your efforts?

If you decide that there is a real possibility they can step up their game, you should allow them the time to try to improve.

However, if it’s obvious that without your constant supervision the employee simply can’t do the work to the level of performance expected and required, it is time to consider terminating them.

2. Could they be more successful in a different role or different company?

Sometimes the employee is simply not in the right company or in the right job.

If the employee is relatively new and performance has faltered from the beginning, it may not be completely their fault. Perhaps they weren’t the right fit for the job and should not have been hired in the first place.

The next thing to consider is whether they could succeed within your company in a different position with different responsibilities. If they can be moved into a position that seems a better fit for their skills and abilities, try that first.

If performance has faltered over time, perhaps something about your performance expectations has changed and they are simply not able to keep up. If you have given them the chance to adapt and meet these new expectations but they are not succeeding, it may be time to consider letting them go.

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3. Is managing them distracting you from other important things?

While managing your employees is part of your job, if you are spending a disproportionate amount of time with an underperformer, you are neglecting your other responsibilities.

Investing time trying to help an underperformer is a waste when they show no improvement over time.

So, instead of wasting too much of your valuable time trying to prop up a poor performer, move on and hire someone else who is better suited for the job. The additional time you spend interviewing  and training a more capable replacement will be worth it in the long run.

Even with severance costs to cushion the impact on the employee you’re firing, it is cheaper in the long run to terminate them and bring in someone who can perform without sapping your time and energy, both of which can be better used to further develop successful employees who contribute to your organization’s success.

About Michel Theriault

Michel Theriault is an author, speaker, and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is the author of Write To Influence (from the Quick Guides for Managers series), Win More Business – Write Better Proposals and Managing Facilities & Real Estate. Write To Influence is currently available as a free download in ebook and audiobook format. As the founder of Success Fuel for Managers, Michel’s work includes training, consulting, seminars, and business-oriented books. Connect with Michel or read his blogs about management and leadership on his site

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