The following article is a guest post shared through the lens of a small business owner who’s been faced with the difficult question many small business owners struggle with – When should I fire an employee and when should I give my employee a second chance?
As anyone who’s ever managed staff knows, employees are going to make mistakes. Sometimes, those mistakes will be so small that no one – not even you – will notice them. Other times, it could be something that costs your company time and money, or damages your reputation with clients, the public, or both.
Unfortunately, the line between when you should cut a worker loose and when you should give them a second chance isn’t always obvious. In fact, you can spend forever trying to figure out when you should considering firing your employee. It’s hard to say whether they’ll use their mistake as a learning experience from which to grow and improve, or retreat back into the same tired habits that caused the problem in the first place.
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I know this dilemma firsthand because I’ve run my own small business for several years and have had to make that gut-wrenching call on too many occasions. But I’m hoping that my experiences with this process, good and bad – can help other managers and business owners when they face similar problems with their own workforce.
Obviously, you have to make your own decisions, because you know your employees and your business best, but in general, these are the rules I’ve created for myself on “When to Fire” and “When to Keep” and Employee.
When to Fire…
If you’ve already spoken with your employee about an issue, but they just don’t seem to be doing anything to try to improve, the next offense is the time to cut the cord. Just be sure that you document everything along the way, and if you can, be clear about your intentions at each step. For example, the first time your employee misses a deadline, you could sit with him or her and tell them that the next time they miss a deadline; you’re going to have to let them go. This way, you’re putting the responsibility on your employee to improve their performance.
The Blow-Off Artist
When an employee doesn’t show up for work, and doesn’t bother to offer an explanation as to why, I cut them loose without question and they have to win me over with a pretty amazing explanation if they want their job back. To me, it’s just unacceptable not to give your manager a heads-up when you miss work.
Hopefully this one is obvious, but if you ever discover that you have a duplicitous employee – especially one who lies to cover his or her own butt – that person needs to be let go yesterday. Just like with the blow-off artist, you never know if you can trust them with anything, albeit in an entirely different way. Will they sell out company secrets? Sow seeds of dissent and mistrust amongst other employees by spreading falsehoods? You never know, and you don’t want those questions hanging over you.
When to Keep…
The Lost Drive
In almost every office, you know that there’s at least one person who’s not really pulling his or her weight. In fact, other people often have to do more work because of them, and it creates a sense of frustration and unfairness. You might be tempted to simply let them go, but if this person was once a good employee, your best bet is to at least talk to them and give them a shot to improve. You might learn that there are extenuating circumstances causing the issue and find ways to make things easier on both sides.
The Unprofessional Demeanor
First off, let’s be clear that there’s a big difference between a person with an unprofessional demeanor and one who has a bad attitude. I say this because there’s some overlap in the sense that they can say inappropriate things, eschew the dress code, and treat the office like a playground. The difference is that someone with a bad attitude knows what they’re doing and could care less, whereas a person who’s just behaving with a lack of professionalism might not know any better – especially if they’re young and this is their first job. Have a quick talk and you might be surprised by how quickly and drastically they change.
The Big Mistake
When someone makes a big mistake, the first instinct of most bosses is that they have to go. After all, why would you keep someone around who causes you to lose a big client or deletes an important file? Well, because they are going to know just how big of a break you’re giving them and work that much harder to be the best employee possible.
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