Top 5 Reasons to Fire an Employee

Never Do Any of These Things If You Want to Keep Your Job

••• Mark Airs/Getty Images

Reasons to fire an employee include disciplinary and performance issues that you cannot solve. Here are the top five reasons to fire an employee.

An employee lacks integrity and you've caught them in repeated lies or underhanded actions. Lies by commission, omission, and obfuscation chip away at the trust you have for an employee.

An employee may believe that one little lie won’t hurt their standing with the organization, but even the smallest lie or untruth, when discovered, does chip away at your regard for the employee. And, because organizational teams are so entwined, you generally will find out that the employee lied.

Lies of omission are just as deadly in chipping away at trust. In a lie of omission, the employee fails to give you particularly relevant pieces of information. Or, the employee leaves out the part of the story that will make him or her look bad. When an employee fails to share the whole picture, you are often blindsided when you receive the rest of the information from another source.

The third way employees chip away at your belief in their integrity is through obfuscation. They think that if they muddy the water enough, or overwhelm you with details, then you may not see that their project has fallen behind.

Once an employee establishes these patterns of behavior with his employer, the trust dissolves. When you no longer trust an employee, you must let the employee go. 

The employee can’t do the job. If an employee, after training, coaching, repeated practice, and a reasonable amount of time receiving feedback, demonstrates that they are not capable of performing the fundamental requirements of the position, it is time to fire the employee.

Of course, you can decide to try the employee out in a different job, change the requirements of the current job, or create a performance improvement plan. But, that's a lot of wear and tear on you're time and it's not your job to be a babysitter. It’s a lot easier to let a person go early on when you see the lack of ability. Remember that you hire for today’s job and tomorrow’s vision.

The employee demonstrates that they just don’t fit the corporate culture. Yes, diverse approaches, thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds are what keep work interesting, innovation strong, and the business profitable. But, a fundamental set of shared values is the glue that binds employees together in productive teams and workgroups.

A new employee should be able to quickly show that they can fit the existing culture. If you ignore the early signs that the new employee sends that there's a misfit, you'll have a much more difficult time later on when you need to let the employee go.

For example, let's say a new developer at a software company claimed during their interviews that they were a team player and liked to work as part of a team. They may have even cited successful college team projects as an example.

But, if the employee comes on board, and immediately is a loner who prefers to code alone in silence, you've seen their true personality and that will never change. In an environment where a development team is the basic functional unit, this new employee needs to be let go as soon as the early warning signs are apparent.

The employee fails to keep commitments. Whether it’s showing up late for work or not finishing a project as predicted, you cannot depend on this kind of commitment-phobic employee. Of course, everyone misses the occasional deadline, but the best employees keep their boss informed about the challenges along the way and renegotiate due dates as needed.

The employee who fails to keep commitments blindsides the boss, lets their teammates down, and is not available to deliver what coworkers expect, and need. A department or job is like a cog in a wheel. The other parts of the organization depend on the output of each employee to produce their own work.

The employee behaves unethically and ignores the company code of conduct. Every employer has the right to expect employees to act ethically and in the way defined in company policies—as well as the code of conduct. This includes such behaviors as accepting gifts from vendors when company policy forbids it, developing inappropriate relationships with customers, and not treating co-workers as equals with respect.

Examples of unethical behavior include:

  • Any harassment or bullying of a coworker
  • Accepting gifts that exceed the gift policy guidelines
  • Promoting lavish spending by employees who are attending a conference or entertaining customers
  • Accepting a bribe from a vendor

All of these behaviors can and should result in employment termination for the employee. Anything else is disrespectful of your other employees and will breed cynicism and ill will.