One of the hardest things a manager has to do is let go of an employee. But there are occasions when it's simply the right thing to do, both for your company and sometimes even the individual being dismissed.

For the most part, we'd always recommend trying to resolve any issues you're having with your employees before you let them go, as firing employees can have a seriously negative impact on team morale. Not to mention, being let go is a horrible experience to endure, and not one you want to inflict without due cause.

That said, there are times when a professional relationship is broken with no second chance in sight, and your best option is to leave your problem employee behind.

To help you navigate this tricky process, we've compiled a list of four tell-tale signs that it's time to say farewell, as well as some tips on how to do so properly!

Consistently poor performance

Everybody has their off days. But, for some, these off days may be a regular reoccurrence. Perhaps they always miss deadlines or they barely hit their targets. Whatever it may be, underperformance can be a real cause for concern.

However, before jumping to a dismissal on the basis of poor performance, it's important to determine the root of this issue. For instance, could your employee be struggling with an underlying mental health problem that's hindering their progress? Or, are they simply disengaged and unmotivated in their role?

A lady sits a table with her laptop open holding her head in her hands.

Try and resolve this performance issue with your employee by taking certain steps:

  • Check in with your employee - Reach out to your employee to discuss the issues they're having in depth, and consider offering them some mental health support if it's needed.
  • Offer more training - Many employees would feel too afraid to admit they are struggling in their position, so consider offering them the training they require to get them back on track.
  • Create a performance improvement plan - If you want to give underperforming employees a second chance, come up with a structured plan consisting of achievable targets for them to hit over a period of weeks along and regular reviews to monitor their progress.

If you try these steps and still find your staff member unproductive and underperforming, you may have to take more drastic action. Other team members will ultimately end up picking up their co-worker's workload and falling behind on their own, damaging progress and morale.

A detriment to the company culture

A company culture has the power to make or break a business. A good work environment is essential for progress, cooperation, and even talent acquisition, as around 66% of job seekers prioritise a positive workplace culture before applying for or accepting a job role.

As an employer, it's your responsibility to create and maintain a positive company culture. That said, sometimes one bad apple can negatively affect the whole team dynamic.

Gossiping, lying, and creating drama are all major red flags when it comes to an employee. Of course, not everybody is going to get along 100% of the time, but if one member of staff is consistently the root of falling outs or spreading rumours, you need to act.

Not only does this kind of negativity create unnecessary conflicts amongst co-workers but it can actually hinder team productivity, as 97% of employees and executives consider team morale and alignment as major factors into the success of a project.

So, if you're constantly dealing with drama at the hands of one employee, it’s probably best to part ways before they do any serious damage to your company culture.

a man and a woman are having a heated discussion

Lack of growth or improvement

When you run a business, growth is the goal. And you need people who can match that growth. So, if an employee is not keeping up with the pace or is not willing to develop themselves, not only will they end up left behind, but they may end up holding you back too.

Whilst some people can be slow learners and may take a while to gain confidence in a new role, if they are able to accept constructive criticism from mentors and develop their skills, that’s not an issue.

But, if someone isn’t invested in a role enough to grow, they will likely not produce valuable work whilst they are there. Save yourself - and your employee - some time by letting them go and giving them a chance to find a new job that suits them more.

Dishonesty regarding skills or previous experience

It’s quite common nowadays to spot the odd fib on someone’s resume, as studies reveal that around 85% of employers have caught candidates red-handed in a lie they told on their CV.

But there is a big difference between a little white lie about how many GCSEs your candidate obtained and a great big whopper about one's former work experience.

If you find your new hire has not got the skill set to perform the role in question, this is most definitely grounds for dismissal. No amount of upskilling or extra training will undo the fact that your relationship with this candidate was built on dishonesty and distrust.

However, hiring an unqualified candidate wastes a lot of time and money, so prevention is the best medicine. For that reason, make sure you always conduct extensive pre-employment reference checks to ensure your new employee was truthful during their application process and they possess the skills and experience required for the role.

a man and a woman welcome a young female employee with a handshake

How to fire an employee

When letting a person go from your business, it's important to make sure the process is fair and lawful to all parties involved. According to Government guidelines, for a fair dismissal, you should:

  • Possess a valid reason - You should identify and provide proof for why you're dismissing an individual and your reason must be a lawful and non-discriminatory one, such as their conduct or capability.
  • Act reasonably - Whilst there is no legal definition of 'reasonableness', this essentially means you should carry out relevant investigations and procedures prior to letting go of your employee, and you should offer them the chance to appeal.
  • Provide details of your disciplinary and dismissal procedure - Make sure you include what your specific processes are in your employees' contracts (and that they align with government-outlined mandatory procedures) so that your employees can be aware of the process.

Firing someone is never an easy thing to do, so try and make it as straightforward as possible for your employee. Of course, there will be times when a manager simply wants to get a problem employee out the door as quickly as possible.

But if your relationship with this member of staff has generally been a positive one, try and show sympathy. Losing your job is a difficult experience to handle and can have serious repercussions on a person's wellbeing and financial situation.


The final takeaway

Firing someone in your team should be a last resort. It's a route to be taken when all others have been exhausted. That said, as an employer, it is also down to you to make sure everyone in your team is pulling their weight and contributing something valuable to your company.

And, whilst letting a person go may be a truly hard decision to make - especially if they are a longstanding employee - sometimes, a dismissal is the best option for you and your team. If you're not sure, consider this: if this problem employee handed in their notice tomorrow, would you be relieved? If the answer is a resounding yes, then perhaps it's time to part ways.