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Don't Be Afraid to Say, 'You're Fired'

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

When people get promoted into a management role, the going phrase is that you now have "hire and fire" power. Almost everyone enjoys using his or her hire power — it's great to build your own team and see each individual employee grow. But fire power? Unless you're a cold-hearted person, you generally don't enjoy using your fire power — ever.

But should you?

If you think the answer is "no," consider the hiring and firing operations of the federal government for a moment — you're more likely to die than to be fired in a government job. Then, think about the level of service provided by most government organizations: Do you want to run your business with the efficiency of a DMV? Then don't fire anyone. But if you want to be better than that, you need to be willing to let people go when it's warranted.

When "Fired" Is the Right Choice

This doesn't mean you should just start firing people whenever you feel like it. So, when should you let someone go? Here are three of the most common reasons to warrant a fire:

1) The employee is a toxic person: toxic employee may be a skilled high-performer, but is also someone who causes problems right and left. This person makes the whole office miserable. Your best employees don't want to work with a bully and will move on. Do you want to replace your good (and kind) employees when they quit?

In addition to the bully, you may have a gossiper, a harasser or a generalized jerk. You don't need these people in your office if they impact company culture and workplace relationships, no matter how good they are at the technical side of the job.

2) The employee is a poor performer: Everyone needs training time. But, if that time has long since passed and your employee still performs below his peers, firing should be considered. How much time and money are you losing because your employee can't do his job properly? How much time are your other employees spending fixing his mistakes?

Perfection isn't a standard that any boss should require and mistakes will aways be made — no matter how great you are at your job — but, if you have someone who consistently under performs after considerable coaching and mentoring, it's time to let that person go.

3) The employee lacks the skill set you need: If someone lacks the skills to do the job and the skills are not something that you can provide through training — or you've given ample training and the employee simply can't grasp the topic — it's time to let her go. This is often the most difficult fire for a manager to make, especially if the employee is a great teammate.

If you're in this situation, you should let the person go, but it shouldn't be a standard "firing." It should be classified as a layoff, which means you're eliminating the position that she was doing and replacing it with a different job description. Offer help in the job hunt, give a great reference and a fair severance package.

The Right Way to Fire People

When you decide that you need to let someone go, make sure that you do it properly. The most important thing you need is documentation. For instance, if you want to fire someone for poor performance, but you've never documented anything about the person's need to improve, you shouldn't fire him or her. Likewise, you can't fire someone for being a bully if you've never documented a problem.

Most importantly, if you do fire someone, communicate the reason to your remaining staff as honestly as you can. Some managers are afraid that if they fire someone, the rest of the staff will be fearful that they're next. This is only the case if you're not clear about why the employee was let go.

Firing someone is never an easy thing to do (and rightfully so), but the best managers understand that it's an important skill set to have if you want to maintain a positive and productive workplace. You will have the opportunity to hire new people with the right attitude, performance and skills for your department, and the end result will be better performance all around.

Photo: Shutterstock

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