When to Fire a Team Member

October 5, 2012 by Dave Ramsey's Entreleadership

Unless you’re Donald Trump, firing someone is probably one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. In fact, it can be heartbreaking. But sometimes, the best choice for your company is to let someone go. So how do you know when it’s time to dismiss a team member?

In most cases, firing a team member should be your last resort, and the decision should never be made in anger. Your first step is to find out why there is a problem. Most of the time, the issues can be fixed—but not always. Here are three reasons why team members fail and when they should be let go.

Leadership Failure

Of the three reasons why a team member is not performing, this may be the hardest to recognize, because you (or your leaders) are the problem. In this case, the team member should almost never be sacked. Fix the leadership or communication breakdown instead. To find out if it is a leadership issue, ask yourself:

  • Were they the right person for the job in the first place? If not, will they be the perfect fit somewhere else in your company?
  • Did you show them what winning looks like with a written, detailed job description (Key Results Areas, or KRAs)?
  • Have they been properly trained and mentored?
  • Did they have all the tools needed to succeed?

Failure Because of Personal Problems

Part of being a successful EntreLeader is to recognize that people, including your team members, matter. So if someone on your team is flopping because of personal reasons, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. If your mom were dying, would your head be 100% in the game? Give them time to work on the issue and stand by them. You may need to offer additional help, like counseling, or give them extra time off. At some point, though, they need to show progress or they should go. Always err on the side of grace though.

Failure Caused by Incompetence

If a team member simply can’t get the job done, can the problem be fixed with additional training or mentoring? If yes, you’re good to go. Get them some help. However, if the incompetence is because of lack of integrity, theft or pure laziness, release them as quickly as possible.

Sometimes being a leader isn’t easy, and that’s especially true when you have to fire someone. But if you take your time in the hiring process, properly train your team, follow the Golden Rule, and show them what winning looks like, your firings will be rare. Instead, you’ll have a team that’s full of passion and always ready to get the job done, making everyone happier.

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