5 Signs It’s Time to Fire an Underperformer


The recruitment process isn’t quick, it isn’t cheap, and it isn’t simple. When we hire an employee, we have certain expectations and hopes that they will turn out to be a high-performing, engaged employee. We want them to be productive and surpass expectations but, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, your employees let you down and you need to consider letting them go.

Dismissing staff is a task nobody looks forward to, but if you have tried all you can to manage your employee’s underperformance, it might be time to sever ties. Failing to do so will ultimately hurt your company’s bottom line and affect the reputation of your business.

If you’re uncertain as to whether or not your employee’s performance is below standard, take time to consider the red flags below.

1. They’re largely apathetic about their role and work

Have you tried again and again to inspire your employee, but you’re receiving nothing in return? Do they appear largely apathetic about the company and their role within it? Though measures can be put in place to motivate your employee, if they seem completely reluctant to engage, they are constantly negative, and they have no pride in their work, this job might just be a poor fit for them.

Keep an eye out for signs of apathy. You might notice they spend an unreasonable amount of time on social media or surfing the internet. The employee in question might be ignoring important tasks. They might be putting in the very minimum amount of work. If this is the case, act now. Apathy isn’t something to be taken lightly. It is contagious — and unless you take steps to resolve this issue, you might be left with serious workplace demotivation issues.

2. They are regularly absent, leave early, or arrive late

Regardless of how confident an employee is in their skills, they should be adhering to whatever regulations you have in place regarding working hours. If you have flexible working, that is one thing. But if you require your employees to work 9-5 and you notice your employee regularly coming in late or leaving early, perhaps taking long lunches or cigarette breaks, this is a warning sign that you might have to terminate your employee.

Before doing so, have documented meetings with the employee, discussing what you expect from them and what the consequences will be if they don’t improve. Monitor the employee’s behavior and, should nothing change, you might want to consider serious action.

3. They are showing no inclination to improve

If you have noticed that your employee isn’t performing to standard, the first step is to attempt to resolve the situation. Managing underperformance is important, as the poor performance might just be a response to difficult workplace processes, difficult home life, or illness. Begin by having an informal discussion with your employee. Express your concern, discuss what measures can be taken to resolve the situation, and follow up with the employee regularly. Write up a specific, time-bound plan to resolve the issue, and offer all the support you can.

After such a discussion, most employees will react by trying hard. If they genuinely care about their role, they will do all they can to put things right. However, if your problem employee shows absolutely no indication that they are trying to improve, you shouldn’t feel bad about dismissing them. They are clearly not the team player you need on board at your company.

4. They are always full of excuses

Everyone has problems, but certain employees seem to have a constant stream of excuses to explain away their poor performance. No matter what you do, they will find something to complain about. You might hear your employee complain about their coworkers, the company’s processes, their journey into work, the slow technology, or a perceived lack of support. All of these issues are worthy topics for discussion, but it might just be that your employee has unrealistic expectations of their job and the people in the company. At some point, they need to be held accountable for their poor performance. This is something they should be made aware of.

5. The employee’s behavior is impacting others

How long has this issue with your employee been going on for? Does this ongoing matter, which doesn’t appear to be improving, demand a significant portion of your time? Does it mean that you aren’t able to give other employees or issues the time they deserve? Does the employee in question spend their time distracting those around them, venting, or asking others for help when they need to get going with their own tasks? Does their underperformance seriously impact important projects and cause delays? If this sounds familiar, it may have got to the point where your employee requires more time and energy than you are realistically able to afford.

If you have noticed a few of the behaviors above and no efforts on your behalf appear to be resolving the issue, you should make the right decision for your company and let the employee go. In the long run, they will likely find work that genuinely engages them, and you will be able to find an employee that will help your company thrive.

About the Author: Marc Bishop is Managing Director of PlusHR Limited, an HR consultancy that specializes in delivering HR management and administration services to SMEs.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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