As an employer, it’s your responsibility to handle tough employees, confront team members who aren’t pulling their weight, and reprimand employees about workplace issues. Maybe you hired someone who aced the interview, but when they started working, you saw things about them that were negatively affecting the culture of the company. If investing time, effort, and coaching doesn’t turn problem employees around, then it is probably time to terminate them.
Firing an employee is always difficult and requires careful determination and documentation to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit. Protecting your client relationships, office morale, and business reputation is crucial, so if you are on the fence as to what behavior is worthy of firing, I will share with you eight acceptable reasons to terminate an employee.
1. Bad Behavior is Getting Worse
Most often, when you confront an employee about a performance issue, they will do their best to get correct the behavior. On the other hand, if they seem disinterested in your efforts to coach, guide, and help them to move beyond the problem or the behavior stays the same or gets worse, that’s a good sign that they need to go. If an employee is resistant to change and continues to have communication issues with their coworkers, it’s time to preserve the health of the workplace environment and send them on their way.
2. Unethical Conduct
If an employee is acting in a way that isn’t morally correct, then it’s your responsibility to address it or get rid of them. Having an employee with a bad attitude is toxic and contagious, and if not remedied, it can damage your company in many ways. This is even more important with small businesses because the employee pool is smaller and dysfunction travels faster. Sexual harassment should be dealt with immediately and should not be taken lightly. Any misconduct that poses a threat to the safety of staff members must also be addressed directly with follow-through regarding consequences. All incidents of misconduct must have documentation and witnesses testimony confirming the incident.
3. Drug or Alcohol Possession at Work
An employee who is intoxicated or taking drugs while at work is an obvious candidate for termination. This may seem like a straightforward policy that is easily enforceable, but with today’s increased use of pharmaceutical medication, it’s not that clear. Many drugs for conditions ranging from depression, anxiety, allergy, or pain can have severe side-effects that can affect a person without them intending to be compromised. If an incident occurs where an employee appears to be under the influence, make sure to investigate the situation thoroughly before you decide to terminate.
Theft is illegal and a reason to be fired immediately. Whether it’s petty theft of office supplies, stealing money, merchandise, or equipment from the company, if not addressed, it sends the message to all employees that it is okay. Catching employee theft is difficult because your employees often know your business better than you do, so it’s essential to have regular audits, reconciling statements, and inspections.
5. Using Company Time or Property for Personal Business
Using the company printer to copy a recipe from a magazine or to send a personal email from a work computer (during break) isn’t a major misuse of company time and property. But if an employee is regularly taking time to talk about personal matters, managing their side businesses on their phone, or doing anything that isn’t work-related, they are in the danger zone of being fired. A person who talks a lot may seem good-natured and friendly but could be disrupting their coworkers and their productivity and needs to be told and redirected.
6. Too Many Absences
An employee who is often late, takes days off, and has exhausted their sick days or unpaid holiday might have a health issue that needs to be worked around. But if there is no official reason for the absences and the behavior continues, it may be that they are not a hard worker and therefore not contributing to the value of your company. Make sure to document every time they are tardy and absent and notify your HR department to make sure to take appropriate action. If the employee does genuinely have a health issue and you fire them, you may be in for a potential lawsuit.
7. Bad Culture Fit
Sometimes you hire a candidate that has the right skills for the job but fails to understand or agree with the company’s goal and culture. The 90-day probationary period is there to not only test a new employee’s skills but also see If they are a good fit for the workplace and team. The first 90 days of employment gives you time to assess their interactions with coworkers before you are legally bound and can still terminate their employment with ease.
8. You’re Still Getting Customer and Vendor Complaints
When customers are regularly dissatisfied due to am employee’s behavior, you must seriously consider why you would not fire that person. The same goes for vendors–they can be critical in the success of your business, and having an employee damage that relationship leaves you with a tough decision. If you start hearing complaints from either your customers or vendors about a particular employee, take them seriously.
In conclusion, it’s never pleasant to fire an employee. But if you’ve tried training, feedback, and coaching and the problem remains, it’s probably best to terminate the relationship. Remember to have the proper documentation before you let them go, so they know the reason why and proof that you gave them the opportunity to make the correction.