Would you rather fire someone or get a root canal?
It’s a tough call. Both are painful and inspire dread. But we all know that ignoring a bad tooth will only make your dental situation (and total bill) so much worse. Similarly, not dealing with a problem employee can quickly lead to reduced productivity and office-wide toxicity. We get it, though. You’re a nice person and a good manager. You know that losing a job is big deal, and you don’t want to mess with someone’s livelihood. But it’s your job to look out for your company’s best interests. If an employee isn’t holding up their end of the deal, it may be time for them to move on.
Here are six ways to tell it’s time to bite the bullet and fire your toxic employee.
1. They’re all problems, no solutions.
Like any good manager, you welcome new ideas and encourage your team to openly discuss their concerns. But you can’t remember the last time your problem employee – let’s go ahead and name him “R.C.” after his spirit animal, the root canal – contributed anything remotely solution-oriented. He’s the resident nay-sayer in every group discussion and can easily give you at least five reasons for why he can’t complete his assigned tasks.
2. You can’t seem to find them.
R.C.’s been getting to work a little late. Maybe you’re fine with a flexible schedule as long as everyone puts in their hours… but he’s also the first one to leave. And his lunch hour is more like 90 minutes. Didn’t he also call in sick last Friday? This kind of chronic absenteeism is an indication that R.C. is no longer invested in his job.
3. It’s not just an attitude problem.
Some people get away with bad behavior because they’re incredibly good at their jobs. Maybe R.C. was an effective employee at some point, but his current performance is subpar. His work is sloppy, his communication is careless, and you’ve gotten more than one complaint from his coworkers and outside parties.
4. They’re bringing down the whole team.
It would be one thing if R.C.’s negativity were contained. But, unfortunately, it’s gone viral, infecting everything it comes in contact with. Your team used to be enthusiastic, but lately a cloud of cynicism hovers over every meeting. Probably because R.C. derails every conversation with his personal gripes. He may also be creating office drama behind the scenes by gossiping and fueling the rumor mill.
5. You find yourself working around them.
You’ve stopped scheduling 9:00 a.m. meetings because you know R.C. will be late. You ask another member of your team to proofread his presentations because they always contain errors. None of R.C.’s assigned work is time-sensitive because he always misses deadlines. The only employee benefitting from any of these stopgap measures is R.C. Everyone else, including you, is wasting their time covering for him.
6. They’ve stopped responding to feedback.
This one’s key for a couple reasons. First of all, lateness, careless work, even a bad attitude – on their own, none of these are necessarily deal breakers. After receiving a warning, most employees will make the necessary adjustments and get back on track. However, if you’ve repeatedly addressed R.C.’s performance issues and he’s repeatedly failed to respond to your feedback, it’s time to take action.
But you also need to examine your behavior as a manager. As a leader, you are responsible for being clear about your expectations. Are you speaking up? Do you address performance issues directly and in a timely and consistent manner? If you pretend everything is okay or angrily simmer in silence, you share the blame for R.C’s toxicity.
Jenessa Connor is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and young adult author. If you don’t find her in front of her computer, check the local movie theaters and restaurants, Prospect Park or the gym at CrossFit 718.