When to Terminate an Employee

Leadership means making tough decisions, even when it isn’t obvious to everyone that a decision needs to be made. While a lot of people hold onto employees way past their usefulness, a leader has to weigh the value of an employee against the risk of continuing their involvement with your team. You spent a lot of time picking the very best people to add to your team, so it can be a painful decision when it comes time to cut someone. What are the signs that tell you it is time to terminate a troublesome employee?

1. Argumentative

It is fine for an employee to feel passionate about a position that is important to the company or to their team, but it is a sad and destructive employee who argues because they have grown weary of their environment and argue for the simple act of releasing aggression. You have someone on your team likes to argue just to argue it’s a very good sign that it’s time for that employee to find a new challenge at a different company. This doesn’t mean you don’t talk to them first, coaching them towards a better attitude, but this is the type of employee that needs to quickly on your radar.

2. Indifference

Apathy is a huge problem that it not only prevents people from doing their jobs, it’s also very contagious. If the someone on your team has a problem, then you need to help them solve that problem or move to a new job.

3. Secretive

Sometimes, when you think they are talking about you they really are talking about you. If people get quite when you approach, or scatter when they see you headed their way, there is something secretive going on and that needs to stop. This could be the start of dissension and it tends to spread too quickly to manage. It’s best to get to the heart of the matter before that false information leads to problems on your team, so track down the source and put a quick stop to the troublemaker.

4. Hard to Find

If an employee is hard to find, and dressed up more than normal, it could mean he’s already looking for new employment. It could just mean someone is too busy with other activities to be effectively focused on working with the other members of your team. Either way, dodging regularly scheduled tasks is a sure sign you have an employee who feels he’s above and beyond the job. You risk other employees assuming unscheduled disappearing acts are allowed, or feeling they are held to a different standard. Everyone must follow the same rules or they must go be someone else’s problem.

5. Coasting

Sometimes it is your fault that someone is less productive than normal. You team members might be overloaded with projects or you have assigned them tasks that they unqualified or unable to make progress. Sometimes a drop in production can happen for no apparent reason, and that is when your attention must be focused on the culprit. If you can’t coach the slacker to increasing their output, it is time to move them off your team.

6. Disgruntlement

When you have someone on your team is disengaged and starts removing personal items from their desk, it is time to focus your attention on that employee. If you have someone who has decided they are unhappy and ready to leave, you either need to solve that problem quickly or cut them loose. This is a scenario that can turn from bad to dangerous quickly, and you need to protect your team from people with a bad attitude.

7. Demanding

Sometimes, when an employee becomes dissatisfied with either their assigned tasks or work environment they will start requesting things that aren’t realistic. You will need to judge these requests and decide if they are reasonable and possible, or things they are asking for to justify quitting. Cut your losses and stay focused on the members of your team focused on output.

8. Headstrong

It is fine to be sure of your position and argue that your choice of direction is the best possible solution, but sometimes you have to admit defeat and move to the next battle. There are those people that can not and will not surrender the battle and will want to continue the fight long after a victory is possible. Those are people that put the team solidarity at risk, tend to distract the team from priorities, and make you question if they are a positive influence to the rest of your company. If that problem can’t be resolved, you will have to let them go to their next challenge.



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