Top 5 Reasons to Fire an Employee

Never Do Any of These If You Want to Keep Your Job

Man being dropped into a trash can

Mark Airs / Getty Images

Reasons to fire an employee include disciplinary and performance issues you cannot solve. Here are the top five reasons to fire an employee:

Lack of Integrity

An employee may lack integrity, whereby you've caught them in repeated lies or underhanded actions. Lies by commission, omission, and obfuscation can chip away at the trust you have for an employee.

An employee may believe one little lie won’t hurt their standing with the organization, but even the smallest untruth, when discovered, can diminish your regard for the employee. And, because organizational teams are so entwined, it's only a matter of time before you'll find out the employee lied.

Lies of omission are equally damaging. In a lie of omission, the employee fails to give you particularly relevant pieces of information. Or, the employee leaves out the part of the story that will make them look bad. When an employee fails to share the whole picture, you are often blindsided when you receive the rest of the information from another source.

Then there's obfuscation. Here, the employee may believe if they muddy the water enough, or overwhelm you with details, you may not see their performance has been subpar.

Unable to Do the Job Due to Incompetence

If an employee, after training, coaching, repeated practice, and a reasonable amount of time receiving feedback, demonstrates they are not capable of performing the fundamental requirements of the position, it's time to fire the employee.

You could move the employee to a different position, change the requirements of the current job, or create a performance improvement plan. However, the more time you commit to the employee, the more money you'll spend on development and training. It may be more prudent to let a person go early on when you see the lack of ability because you hire for today’s job, but tomorrow’s vision.

Unable to Work in the Culture

An employee may demonstrate they just don’t fit the corporate culture. For example, the employee may not be a team player or work well with others. Any employer wants diverse approaches, thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds to provide innovative and creative solutions. However, a fundamental set of shared values is the glue that binds employees together in productive teams and workgroups.

Let's say a new developer at a software company claimed in interviews that they liked to work as part of a team. They may cite successful college team projects as an example. But once onboard, it's evident they don't work well with others, and behave in a combative, defensive, and uncooperative fashion. As a result, it may be necessary to let the employee go.

Showing Up Late or Missing Work

Whether it’s showing up late for work or not finishing a project as predicted, you cannot depend on this kind of commitment-phobic employee. Everyone misses the occasional deadline, but the best employees keep their boss informed about the challenges along the way and renegotiate due dates as needed.

The employee who fails to keep commitments blindsides the boss, lets their teammates down, and is not available to deliver what co-workers expect, and need. A department or job is like a cog in a wheel. The other parts of the organization depend on each employee to produce their work.

Code of Conduct Violations

Every employer has the right to expect employees to act ethically as defined in the company policy, as well as the code of conduct. Examples of unethical behavior include:

  • Any harassment or bullying of a co-worker
  • Accepting gifts that exceed the gift policy guidelines
  • Promoting lavish spending by employees who are attending a conference or entertaining customers
  • Accepting a bribe from a vendor or customer

All these behaviors can—and should—result in the employee's termination. Anything else disrespects your other employees and will breed cynicism and ill will. 

The content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a worldwide audience, and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.