#Human Resources #Employer

When is the Right Time to Fire an Under-performing Employee

by Danial
Jan 02, 2019 at 10:37 AM

There are many employers that keep under-performing employees for too long. They question whether to let these employees go or wait until a better replacement is found. Since individuals are hired to fulfill a role within a company and bring profit, those who are not performing at a profitable level don’t fit within the company’s operating model.

So when is the best time to tell an employee goodbye, rather than when they may just need a little extra oversight and training?


Is the employee replaceable?

There are other candidates that can do the same job if the employee’s knowledge and skill set are not unique. Knowing that there are others that can readily replace the employee makes a quicker dismissal an easier decision.

With the right system in place to prepare for a transition, managers can be assured that their team won’t skip a beat by welcoming in a new member as quickly as possible.

It’s the manager’s responsibility to ensure team goals are being met while maintaining a motivating working environment that employees can work in. Though managers have much to lose by keeping an under-performing employee, accelerating the transition process can be advantageous for productivity and growth.


The sensitivity of the situation

The sooner you fire the under-performing employee, the more urgent it will be to find a replacement. If you decide to keep an employee around, the recruitment team will not move as quickly, which risks the news being leaked before the employee is fired.

The mishandling of this scenario will portray the manager as untrustworthy, where employees feel like they’re at risk even if they’re not.

Leaving time for employees to catch on to the sensitive situation at hand will also open the doors for the under-performing employee to react negatively and jeopardise the work quality.


Under-performance is contagious

Under-performers are toxic and employees usually measure their performance against their peers.  When employers keep under-performing players, they risk their best employees leaving out of frustration and their average employees conforming to lower standards.

Keeping just one underperformer hurts overall company performance, especially if such individual is in a leadership position.


Establish a dialogue

It’s always better to establish a dialogue with the employee in question before making a decision to dismiss them. If you suspect a drop in productivity and work quality, invite the employee to a review to see if there’s anything that has changed outside of their control.

The best thing you can do is to ask them questions about their experience and gain feedback on how you perform as a leader (read: How to Give Effective Feedback at Work)


What about different roles?

The hiring process is expensive (read: How to Hire Successfully for Less than RM200). If the employee is well-liked and contributes intangibles to the company, see if they are in the right role. If their skill set and wants don’t match with what they’re doing, are there other employment opportunities at your organisation where they could succeed?


Is the company to blame?

If an organisation consistently sees under-performing employees, it is probably the time for a change in the hiring process.

Recruiting agencies can handle the screening process for the organisation, so only handpicked candidates make it to the interview stage to begin with. The organisation’s overall morale should also be evaluated to determine whether its structure or roles themselves may be the problems.

Maybe the company is in need of an overhaul in company culture, or employees need a more rigorous training process. Firing under-performing employees in such case will not fix the underlying problem long term.


A rushed decision to dismiss an under-performing employee is not always the best course of action. Take time to understand the why and evaluate the team as a while, open dialogue with the employee to dig deeper, then decide on what’s best for the organisation.

Managers don’t make the easiest decision so it’s important to have a holistic view of what’s happening so the best decision can be made.

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This article is based on When Is It Time To Fire An Under-Performing Employee by New To HR