The Art of Firing : How to get rid of worthless employee

Being a manager is not easy, especially when you have a non-performing employee in your team. The life gets worse if that employee doesn’t want to improve. Few employees have an issue with behaviour which stops them to improve. They have either taken the things for granted or very rigid to change attitude. For whatsoever reason it may be, the manager faces a tough situation. Most of the manager doesn’t know ‘the art of firing’ and show instant reactions which may damage their reputation, but with no result.

There are two types of non-performing employee. First who has an issue with knowledge and understanding. These kind of employees are mainly recruitment defects. They are actually unable to understand how to perform or how to improve. They are non-performer from day first. Managers need to put extreme care for these kinds of employees and probably role change is the only solution for them. But the second type of non-performer is dangerous. They are actually non-performer by choice. After spending years in the organisation, such employees develop behavioural issue and refuse to work hard. Past relation and internal networking make them believe that no one can take any action against them. As they are not recruitment fails, so it is very tough to prove their behavioural issues.

A non-performing and non-improving employee is a big threat to the growth of any organisation. And it is manager’s duty to bring the issue in the notice of management and to initiate the process of separation. Practically it takes few months for any good organization to react on such matters. But in many cases, manager fails to initiate the process and makes it a personal tussle.

Why should such employees be fired?
  1. Unproductive: Such employees are very unproductive. They waste time and money of the organisation in doing nothing. Being a good liar, they feel that they can cover the flaws.
  2. Negative: Such employees also creates negative vibes among other team member and impact team’s motivation and performance.
  3. Relationship loss: If they are in marketing or sales profile, then they create a negative image of their manager with business partners (or channel partners) which in turn damages relationship and business.
  4. Losing Customers: It causes a heavy penalty to any organisation if a customer is lost because of this. If we have such employees in sales profile then false commitment and rare face time make the customer angry. They don’t have the relationship with the end client.
  5. Commitment failure: They can’t be trusted with their commitments of completion of any task and in the result, it makes the manager’s life hell who has to deliver the job on time.
Issues in firing
  1. Lengthy Process: They aren’t recruitment mistakes. When they were hired, a complete process was followed. For any good organisation it is not easy to just declare someone wrong and fire. If they were hired after adopting complete process then the separation also need a complete process.
  2. Past performance: They aren’t non-performer from day first. Such employees have performed well in past. The reason for performance may be odd or some time luck also, but no one can deny figures on paper. And on one day if a new manager raises a question about their capabilities or contribution, then it is not accepted easily. The condition is even worse when the previous manager opted to be silent to avoid any complications.
  3. Networking: They are usually good in networking, both internal and external. They are always in touch with next superior and other senior persons. It supports them to express their (false) hard work and to create an impression of being a good employee. If a manager raises any question about such employees, a natural repulsion is there. And if it is not done in a proper way then impact is reversed, the manager’s condition becomes false.
  4. Employee Friendly Organisation: Sometimes manager, itself is new in the system and raising a question on any employee in first few months, may not be a good idea in many organizations. There are many employee friendly organizations where Firing isn’t a good idea. They insist on giving chance to such employees and this takes then years to see any action. Such behaviour of the organization also supports the belief of such non-performing employee.
  5. Team’s motivation: Firing of even single employee impacts team’s motivation. “Firing” is hardcore professional action and may go wrong sometimes. It is manager’s responsibility keep the team intact and motivated.

It is very clear that taking strict action is not that easy as it sounds in the professional world. There must be a process to be followed and it makes it bit complicated. But the process can’t be ignored either otherwise it will make the system unstable. If no such process exists then Manager may “fire” employees on personal grudge as well. To avoid any wrongdoings a system is made where next superior and HR Managers are also part of the process, but it is the manager who will initiate the action.

Art of Firing
  1. Don’t be in hurry: This is the biggest mistake most of the managers do. The moment they identify the issue they try to rectify same by removing that particular employee from the team. And here it goes all wrong. The manager ends up with a personal conflict with the employee and reputation loss. The employee continues its job without much of worry. A manager must understand that this is a time taking process, from few months to a year, depending on the type of organisation.
  2. It is not a personal fight: However, the behaviour of such employees is creating trouble for you but it is never your personal fight. Don’t take it on your ego. Don’t get provoked to shout and make it your personal fight. The moment it will appear as a personal rift, you are on a negative side. This is a common mistake which must be avoided. Keep your calm. No heated argument in open area. No discussion with another junior level person in the matter.
  3. Build a case: Without a proof, you cannot blame anyone. Also, non-performance is the least preferred reason to fire an employee. So if you are building a case based on non-performance then it is likely to go unheard. We also recommend you not take such harsh action for non-performance. But if it is the behavioural issue and the employee don’t want to improve or change the attitude then build a case based on behaviour and indiscipline.
  4. Keep the communication documented: The moment you identify such employee, keep all communication documented. The emails must be clear and precise. Parallely keep trying to work on the issues of the employee but don’t wait for the day you fail. Don’t discuss or indicate much about why you are sending emails. If you don’t get a response, make the reminder emails. As said in the previous point, the content of mail should be focused on behaviour and discipline. Reporting, if done verbally, should be documented in the mail as a note of discussion. Not necessary to keep all mail marked to your senior. Mark copy to your senior in judgmental emails only.
  5. Keep HR in the loop: This is a must for any manager to keep HR in the loop for any such activity. First just inform HR about your finding. Your finding should not sound judgemental but an observational. Tell them that you are working on the improvement of the employee as you believe in giving chances. Keep the communication regular and inform HR person verbally so that they should be knowing the case from the right angle. You may also forward few unresponsive emails or awkwardly responded mail to HR for their information. But keep them in the loop in judgemental emails and discuss this with your boss as well.
  6. Gain the confidence of your Boss: It is important to get the favour of your boss. The moment you will start righting precise emails (or documenting the talk), the information will reach your boss in the negative shade by that special employee. So before starting such emails, discuss with your boss and mention the emails as regular reporting for all teammates. Unless you have proof, don’t mention a particular name. The response of emails will tell the whole story that who is bluffing, and when you will have enough data then discuss with your boss in person.
  7. Talk to your team regularly: Your action should not give heat to the other team members, so involve them in a regular communication and keep the things simple. Also, this will nullify the attempt of making you a villain in front of another team member.
  8. Take tough final step: After you will have enough odd responses, start marking a mail to HR and your boss. Important to note that there should not be a long gap between marking the emails and your final step. In your final step, you send all the data to your boss and HR manager, with your final verdict. This mail must reflect your efforts to motivate and support the employee. You clearly mention why you cannot have that employee on your team and put the ball in their court.

But in any case, if both HR and your boss disagree with all your points, then don’t make it an ego issue, but clearly mention aftereffects. Stay calm and keep documenting.

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