4 Signs It's Time To Fire An Employee

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Not everyone is going to fit in with the mission and goals of your company. Keeping an employee around who isn't contributing positively can really hurt a company—especially a small business where culture can be closely tied to success. If an employee is showing any of these four signs, it might be time to let them go.

1. Not performing up to expectations

It doesn’t matter how much you appreciate employees' efforts—if they’re failing to meet their expectations month after month, they may not be a good fit for your business. Not only are they costing you money, but they’re pushing responsibilities onto other colleagues, causing stress within an organization. 

One solution, when you spot a poor performer, is to offer this employee a short-term improvement plan. However, if this person fails to improve within this specific time period, you should work on a transition plan to give him or her time to find another job while you find a replacement.

2. Can't handle change

Growth is crucial, especially for small, fast-moving companies. If an employee, when first hired, was a high performer but can't keep pace or move in the same direction as the company, then he or she is no longer the right fit. Companies need to continue to improve and evolve to be successful, and so do their workers.

“Change is inevitable, especially at a fast-moving company. Employees need to be comfortable with change and eager to improve our abilities,” says Matthew Bellows, CEO of Yesware. “We need to keep our skills growing at pace with the company.”

3. Lacks enthusiasm and drive

It's easy to be motivated in the early stages, but as a company grows and hits a few bumps, that's when it's easy to see who's aligned with the company's values and committed to carrying a company through the long term, and who isn't.

“Everyone who gets through our interview process is excited for the opportunities ahead. But we all need to maintain, and even increase, our motivation in those months ahead,” Bellows says. “Bravery is required. We won’t all feel motivated and brave all the time. But we value people who are passionate about our work and motivated to lean in further.”

4. Doesn't fit into company's culture

Most of the time, hiring managers are so focused on hiring someone with the right skills, they forget that it’s also important to hire someone who understands the goals of your company. “Many people default into choosing people who have high competence but a low cultural fit. This is a deadly mistake in a startup, as this is exactly the wrong person to hire ,”  Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group, wrote for  The Wall Street Journal .   “While they may have great skills for the role you are looking for, the overhead of managing and integrating this person into your young team will be extremely difficult.” 

“This is especially true if they are in a leadership position, as they will hire other people who have a cultural fit with them, rather than with the organization, creating even more polarization within your young company,” Feld adds.

Feld says the perfect candidate is a culture fit with “medium” competence, who is ambitious enough to learn new skills within a short period of time. 

Next Steps

If you have evaluated an employee's performance, attitude toward growth, motivation and cultural fit, and decide it's in your company's best interest to let him or her go, you still need to consider one more thing: legal issues. According to employment law firm Stone Business Law, one of the most important things to consider is whether or not you’re firing someone for the right reasons. If there is even the slightest chance that the reason you’re asking someone to leave has anything to do with age, race, sex, national origin, religion and disability, you should consult with a lawyer or HR specialist immediately before making any decisions.

Also, plan on having two people in the room when you’re telling someone he or she is fired. It not only will help you be more rational and keep your emotions in check, but the other person can serve as a witness and take notes, in the event the employee files a claim against the company.

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