5 Revealing Signs It’s Time to Fire a Lousy Employee

Are you a business owner frustrated by the poor performance of some of your employees? Do you want to run a profitable business, but question whether all staff members are pulling their weight?

Being a business owner or leader isn’t always a pleasant experience. There are times when you need to face unpleasant tasks you would rather avoid. If any of these signs are present, it might be time to consider letting a bad employee go.

(Now, please keep in mind, I do my best to call the folks who make our organizations run, and who support our efforts to positively make an impact, “team members,” not “employees.” For this article, however, I intentionally use the word “employee,” as this is often how the person is acting—taking, rather than contributing as a dedicated team member would.)

Related: 5 Frustrating Leadership Mistakes to Avoid as an Entrepreneur

5 Signs it’s Time to Terminate a Lousy Employee

(1) If an employee spends too much time chatting with their coworkers or visiting with their friends, you might need to consider firing them. Employee productivity is critical for business survival. Staff members who spend the majority of their time chatting on their smartphone or visiting with other employees are not attending to the needs of your business. You’re not paying them to visit, but to work instead. Don’t be afraid to fire a chatty employee, as they’re probably not adding much revenue to your top line or drawing profits to your bottom line anyway.

(2) If an employee spends more time smoking in front of your business than attending to their duties, it’s time to cut the cord. While your employees are entitled to their allowed breaks (and you should be encouraging breaks as it increases productivity and creativity), smoking in front of your business is a no-no. Customers and clients don’t want to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke just to reach your front door. Have strict rules in place regarding employees smoking on your premises and enforce your rules for all employees and management staff.

(3) If an employee is consistently late for work, late for meetings, misses scheduled phone calls, or asks to leave early on an ongoing basis, it’s time to think about terminating their employment. Their behavior shows they don’t prioritize your business. Occasional tardiness is one thing, but a pattern of lateness and leaving early shows they value other things in their life to the detriment of your business and their job.

(4) Employees who disparage their employers on social media are bad for business. From comments like “I hate going to work” to negative comments about your company, mocking social media posts are bad for business. While you might not be able to fire employees for what they say about your company online, you should be monitoring their sentiment towards your business for signs of negativity.

(5) Staff members who continually ignore customers and clients in favor of completing other tasks are another sign of a troublesome attitude. An employee who pays more attention to their task list than client satisfaction is costing you money. Their to-do list can wait until they have finished waiting on customers. If customers (who pay the bills) are being ignored while an employee goes about their daily duties, it’s time to start documenting their behavior and having a serious chat with them about their long-term employment with your company.

Related: If You Make Any of These Six Business Plan Mistakes, You’ll Regret It!

Yes! I know firing an employee can be tough. You have put time and resources into training them and can feel like you’ve wasted good money if you terminate their employment. Get disciplined yourself, and nip the bad behavior in the bud early…coach them up before you coach them out. Speak and model good and expected behavior. If you think about the repercussions of their behavior on your business, you may find it easier to cut your losses, set them free, and terminate them from your payroll.

A final thought: when we have regular behavior in our organizations like the ones listed above, we don’t just have an employee problem, we have a leadership problem! Look within first, and then review your hiring practices and consider whether your recruitment and selection process is flawed. Additionally, question whether you’re adequately declaring your expectations for performance. If team members don’t know your expectations, they simply won’t meet them.

What consistent, but often accepted, behavior do you see in low engaged employees that should be addressed to increase productivity in an organization?

  • Lovay Singleton

    Great info and pointers especially for military veteran entrepreneurs who are just getting started in business. We are use to working with the troops that we are given, so knowing that their are signs and that holding on to a employee who is not working out, can be costly: financially and for the morale of the business. Thanks!

    • That’s a great, great point! If we don’t have a choice in our team members, it makes it much more difficult. Or even you might want to let someone go, but you really can’t because you’re told you can’t replace them. So you have a quandry: do I let them go and ask the rest of the team to work harder and keep the culture better, or do I live with the lower productivity of that person because getting something is better than nothing?

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