fire employee

3 Signs It’s Time To Fire An Employee- And How To Do It

As a leader, you’re responsible for making tough decisions.

And those decisions can be tough in more ways than one – especially when it comes to letting an employee go.

There are emotions and another person’s livelihood at stake – and so, it’s easy to put off the decision in hopes that the employee will “find his way” and get back in his groove.

However, if you wait too long, you can lose money through lack of productivity, decrease employee morale, and suffer a big opportunity cost – the cost of having an unfit employee do a lackluster job, rather than a new hire crushing his tasks.

So, how do you know when it’s time to fire an employee? Be aware of certain signs. If you see one or more of these signs in an employee, it may be time to let them go.

Here are three signs it’s time to fire an employee…

1. Apathetic Attitude

Remember that positive attitude she had during her job interview? Well, that attitude is all but gone now.

In its place is a more apathetic attitude. Instead of taking charge, she sits back and goes through the motions of her job.

She seems disinterested and disengaged with her work. She no longer has the drive and motivation to improve, and may even show up late over and over again – if even just by a few minutes. What’s more, she no longer seems to care about the craft.

Attitude is one of the toughest things to fix in an employee. What’s worse, one bad attitude can bring down the morale of the entire office.

2. Diminishing Productivity

One or two overdue projects aren’t the end of the world. This can mean that your employee had a loaded schedule and lost track of time. However, if the same employee consistently finishes important projects past their due date, it’s a cause for concern.

Perhaps he’s submitting projects on time, but his projects are littered with errors. Or, worse, he wastes your time and other employees time by asking too many unnecessary questions.

In either case, he’s being unproductive and also showing a lack of self-reliance – two big red flags for an employee.

3. Lack of Accountability

Is your employee solution-oriented, or does she lack accountability? In other words, when a problem occurs, does she first 1) blame other people, 2) make excuses, and 3) wait and do nothing, in hopes that the problem will magically solve itself?

Or, does she take action, acknowledge reality instead of dwelling on who’s “fault” it was, and immediately try to find solutions?

The latter is the type of employee we’d all like to have – while the former should be an employee on the way out of your company.

When your employees strive to find solutions instead of lay blame, you won’t be crippled by the same type of issues as so many other companies.


Okay, now aside from these, here are some other signs to look out for:

·      Poor performance

·      Drug or alcohol abuse

·      General misconduct/bad behavior

·      Constantly taking time off

·      Violating company policy

Now the question becomes, how exactly do you fire an employee the right way?

·      Have a plan. Know exactly what you’re going to say. It can be as simple as, “I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.”

·      Get a witness. With a witness in the room, you can avoid risk – your employee can’t say that you said things you did not.

·      Know the steps. If you’re not the company owner, make sure you know your company’s rules about firing someone and adhere to those standards.

·      Focus on the facts. For example, “You’ve failed to meet 6 of the past 10 deadlines, and this is unacceptable.”

·      Consider a severance package. This can be a compassionate way to let an employee go, as well as help you to avoid potentially damaging legal issues.


It’s not fun to fire people – but when they’re not holding up their end of the bargain as employees, you don’t have a choice. You need to make the right decision for your business.

In doing so, you’ll keep your business running smoothly and maintain (and potentially gain) the respect of other employees.

Do you have any other signs that it’s time to fire an employee? Let us know in the comments below! 

Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry.  He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies.  In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award.  Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. 

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