HR Strategy

Is It Time to Go? When to Terminate the “Just OK” Employee

May 2, 2018

Should I stay or should I go now?Should I stay or should I go now?If I go, there will be troubleAnd if I stay, it will be doubleSo come on and let me know—The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

Although they’re singing about the pain of an on-again, off-again romance, the Clash reveals how ending any relationship—including the employment relationship—is never easy. Of course, not ending that problematic relationship can bring double the trouble, as Mick Jones sings. But how do you know when it’s time to cut ties with an employee who is just getting by?

When it comes to employees who ‘clash’ with the company, the worst offenders are easy to identify and discipline. Termination may be an obvious consequence for an employee who physically strikes another employee, or one who commits a major theft from the company. Other problem employees may be much harder to pick out.

For example, the same employee who is beloved by their co-workers for their high spirits may be better known to you as the employee who rarely meets a deadline. As a manager, you find their excuses much less funny than the wisecracks they share with the team. Perhaps you have a long-serving employee who refuses to adapt to changes in procedure, or to learn new systems adopted by the organization. Or you may have an employee whose performance has walked the line between “satisfactory” and “needs improvement.” They aren’t the worst employee, but your coaching attempts have failed, and they have always been on the low end of ‘fine’. When faced with these scenarios, would you ask these employees to stay or to go?

Such decisions are neither easy nor inexpensive. Depending on the justification, terminating an employee is very difficult. Where it is even possible, it can result in you having to pay the employee notice or severance, in addition to the expense of turnover once you hire and train a new employee. Other costs are harder to calculate but just as important to consider. When deciding whether or not to terminate, it’s important to determine how your internal and external stakeholders are likely to perceive the change. Will remaining employees feel scared or bitter about your decision? Is the terminated employee likely to post an angry rant online that could damage your employer brand? Will this employee take valuable client and vendor relationships with them when they leave?

Despite these risks, termination may be a cost-saver, as a poor performer or a toxic contributor can cause greater damage by sticking around. In other cases, waiting for an employee to transfer, retire, or quit may be the appropriate decision.

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Sources:Termination of Employment – Ontario“Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Lyrics by Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Joe Strummer. Performed by The Clash.Five Reasons to Fire an Employee (and Five Reasons Not To).When Should You Fire the Good Enough Employee.To Fire or Not to Fire.