When Is The Right Time To Fire A Toxic Employee?

There’s an old saying in the HR world, “Hire Slow. Fire Fast.” You’ve probably heard this catchphrase at some point in your career. While there are always exceptions to the rule, this is certainly a strategy that you can apply to your business.

Toxic employee asleep on top of desk while at work

Hiring slow is smart. It allows you to wait to find the right person for the job. When you hire someone with the right experience, skill set, and cultural fit it can help to drive your company to success. We all know that hiring costs time and money, but putting the right people in the right positions will almost always have a positive outcome.

How To Fire An Employee And Avoid Getting Sued

Now it’s clear that we don’t always win the hiring game. Sometimes a toxic employee slips through the cracks or a veteran employee stops bringing their A-game. Whatever the case may be, when you have an employee that’s holding your company back it’s time to fire them.

Tough, challenging, and toxic employees have no place in the work environment. When it’s abundantly clear that a problem employee is no longer working out, it’s smart to fire fast. Many employers ignore this rule in hopes that an unfortunate situation will get better, but it usually doesn’t. Instead time rolls on and the situation spirals out of control causing more and more problems the longer you wait.

It’s not always a clear and simple decision to fire a toxic employee. Many employers give an employee three strikes before they make the final firing decision, which is only fair. But if you see a continual pattern of any of the following red flags, it’s best to fire a toxic employee sooner than later:

  • Not Meeting Expectations – Employees must be able to do the job that you hired them for. If they continually do not meet expectations or do not complete their work, they are only costing you money.
  • Need An Attitude Adjustment – A negative, unenthusiastic, or apathetic attitude is contagious. If an employee is not happy working for you, help them out by sending them on their way.
  • Poor Fit In The Company Culture – When you hire, don’t only focus on the hard skills. You need to hire people who will be a good fit with the company culture and team. If they don’t fit in, they can bring down everyone around them.
  • Lack Of Engagement – An employee who isn’t engaged at work will most likely not be a productive member of the team.
  • Complaints – Any complaints from customers, clients, or co-workers need to be thoroughly examined. If there is a pattern, this is bad news.
  • HR Issues – HR issues, including things like sexual harassment, drug use, inappropriate behaviors, etc., should be dealt with immediately and in the most appropriate way possible.
  • Mutinous Behavior – If you sense a bit of dissension in the ranks, pinpoint who the ringleader is. If this person is causing issues and is disturbingly stirring the pot, cut them loose.
  • No Call/No Show – When an employee doesn’t show up for work, doesn’t call, and doesn’t have a legitimate excuse for doing so you have no reason to keep this unreliable employee around.
  • Dishonesty – Honesty is always the best policy. An employee caught lying, stealing, or cheating should be fired.
  • Feedback is Ignored – It’s important to provide feedback to employees. This is your opportunity to coach them to success. If your feedback is repeatedly and blatantly ignored this is a sign of disrespect and that employee deserves to be fired.

There are countless reasons to fire a toxic employee. Every HR pro can think of numerous other reasons that are not listed in this short blog post. The takeaway here is to realize that a toxic employee is not going to improve. If you witness a pattern of bad behaviors, it’s better to fire a toxic employee as soon as possible. Don’t wait. It will ultimately cause more headaches, cost you more money, and cause you more problems in your workplace. No one wants that.

If you want your business to grow and to be successful, you have to fire the people who are holding you back. No one wants to have to do that job, but it is required. Firing a toxic employee is not a personal decision, but a business decision. Keep the situation professional and ask the right questions before you fire someone. Once you decide a toxic employee needs to be fired, do it sooner than later.

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