Firing people can be tough. Whatever the reason, don’t feel bad for having a hard time deciding to fire an employee.
Some employees are simply toxic, and no matter how much you try to work with them, it doesn’t work out. That’s okay.
If you’ve worked hard to improve your toxic team member, but aren’t getting anywhere, it’s time to let them go. Here’s how to do it gracefully.
Step 1: Identify and Attempt to Fix
When considering if you are going to fire someone, first ask yourself, “Is this an attitude problem or an aptitude problem?” Since we are talking about toxic employees, we can safely assume it is an attitude problem.
Toxic employee. With those two words, you may already have someone coming to mind. But it’s important to determine whether the employee is actually toxic or if they just need some help to fit better. Perhaps they need to move to a different department or position, or some mediation needs to take place with other team members.
Is this an attitude problem or an aptitude problem?
Sit down with them and discuss the “toxic” behavior. It’s important to give your employee honest feedback and the opportunity to change.
If they won’t or can’t change, then that’s when you need to make a decision: whether they’re worth keeping or if you need to fire them.
Before jumping to firing, though, sit down with them and create a resolution plan (aka PIP, or performance improvement plan). In the plan, there should be key performance indicators that can be measured. Define a time period. At the end of that period, you’ll need to assess the results of the plan.
Step 2: Assess the Results
Take a look at the resolution plan you and your employee discussed. Was it implemented successfully? Did your employee improve?
If so, sit down with them and talk to them about the next steps.
If they did not improve and the problem persists, it’s time to consider firing the toxic employee.
Step 3: Prepare
If you’re having a hard time making a decision, ask yourself the following questions:
If this employee applied for a job at your company today and you knew everything you know about them now, would you still hire them?
It’s important to determine the value of your employees, but not at the expense of your business or other team members. Think about if their problems outweigh their value – and know that there are other fish in the sea!
How would you feel if that toxic employee resigned today?
Would you feel anxious? Think about why you might feel that way.
However, if you would feel relieved, that’s a good indicator it’s time to let that person go.
Do your other employees trust this team member?
If your other employees can’t trust your toxic employee, that’s a strong indicator that they don’t fit in and need to be fired.
Furthermore, if they feel unsafe around the employee, it’s definitely time to show them the door.
Do they admit to their wrongs?
No matter how much we may want people to change, they have to choose to change themselves.
Scapegoating is a great way to hold onto the control a toxic employee often craves. By placing the blame on others, they can continue their toxic behavior without consequence.
Does your employee acknowledge their wrongdoing, take ownership of the problem, and want to change?
If not, it’s time to let them go.
Did you provide guidance and a chance to correct the behavior?
Look back over the resolution plan you and your employee should have created.
If you didn’t try that path first, go back and pursue that path first.
You should always be providing timely feedback to your team – and the key word is “timely.” Letting them know how they’re doing and what you expect of them is key to maintaining a driven, focused team.
Give your employee a chance to correct their toxic behavior, and if they don’t improve, then let them go.
Step 4: Firing the Toxic Employee
Schedule the meeting to fire the toxic employee, and make sure to have a witness present. Follow these tips when firing a toxic employee to make sure the process goes smoothly:
- Have a clear job description available to refer to if needed. Your employee should be aware of the things you expect from them when they’re hired. If asked how they’re not meeting expectations, you should be able to point directly to the job description to show them.
- Have a third party present, preferably HR. This person will review your decision to ensure it’s fair and warranted.
- Follow your company’s discipline policy (i.e. three strikes, performance reviews, etc.).
Stay calm during the entire meeting, and try not to end on a negative note. Make sure to thank the employee for their time, but don’t apologize for letting them go. Finally, make sure you understand their communication style so you can better communicate with them during the process and make it go more smoothly.
Here are a few great tips for staying on topic and keeping a firing meeting under control:
When you’re telling someone they’re fired:
- Don’t say, “I understand how you feel.” You don’t.
- Don’t say, “I know that this hurts right now but later on you’ll realize that this is the best thing that could have happened.” It isn’t. It is a very bad thing.
- Avoid justifications (“You should have known”).
- Keep a box of Kleenex available.
- Survival is a strong instinct — give it time to work.
- Remember the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they want to be treated.
Step 5: Move Forward
You’ve done it! You have fired the toxic employee. Now it’s time to move forward.
Learn from your mistakes!
Take care to remember the red flags you may have missed in the beginning about the toxic employee. Make sure you keep this in mind when hiring a replacement.
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Letting Go: How to Fire Toxic Employees | Business Coach Doug Winnie – Houston, TX