You scoured through hundreds of resumes, interviewed top candidates, and hired the best available person to do the job for your company… at least you thought so. But after a reasonable time on the job, the work is not getting done and there is friction building. No manager likes to be in this position. There are ways to get rid of bad employees without creating legal liabilities.
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Working “At Will”
Unless an employee has a contract stating otherwise, jobs are “at will” in the United States. That means employment will continue as long as the company and the worker both agree to. The employee can quit for no reason and without notice. The employer may terminate an employee for any reason, for no reason, and without notice. For example, a company may have a slowdown and terminate many good employees because there is no work available.
Some common reasons for firing are illegal including: discrimination, refusing sexual advances, jury duty, military service, or refusing to commit an illegal activity. There are other illegal reasons to terminate an employee. Poor work performance is not one of them.
Incompetent or Untrained?
It is possible to convert a bad employee - one who does not complete their work responsibilities in an efficient, timely and professional manner - into a good empowered employee if their poor performance stems from a lack of training or a misunderstanding of their job responsibilities. Most employees like to do a good job and are unhappy when they know their work is under par. Unhappy employees rarely perform well.
Meet with new employees frequently to reinforce their responsibilities and let them know if their performance is good. If they express difficulty with certain tasks, offer them a way to learn more effective procedures. Provide coaching by another worker until that part of their job is more efficient. Keep written records documenting the conversations, performance statistics and any change after retraining efforts.
Employees who perform poorly because they lack the desire to do the job, are not mentally or physically matched to the work tasks, or participate in illegal behaviors will not respond to retraining efforts. The documentation created by reviews and ongoing performance statistics will provide evidence that firing the poorly performing employee was a fair decision.
Define Duties and Expectations
When a need for an additional employee occurs, whether to replace someone who left or to address a growing workload, the responsibilities of the new worker should be clearly defined. Defining job duties can be difficult for companies with less than five employees, where job titles and duties require flexibility. It is important that the new person, even during their application and interviews, understand what their job will be and the performance levels that will be expected.
Determine how you will measure the performance of the new worker. How much production is accomplished by others doing similar work? How long does it take for others in the company to complete a similar task? How many customers do other employees serve per day? One of the ways to get rid of bad employees is to measure their work performance against the performance standards of the company overall.
If a company applies its performance standards consistently, employees know what to expect. Documenting the consistent under performance of workers is a way to get rid of bad employees.
Methods of discipline for bad employees include verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, or termination. The adage saying “let the punishment match the crime,” is good workplace advice. Most employees believe it is fair and equitable to give them a chance to improve.
In reality, whether to offer opportunity to improve work performance, or to be terminated is at the discretion of the employer. If, as an employer, you have published a handbook that outlines your company’s disciplinary policies, then such policies likely become legally binding requirements.
Some common reasons for instant termination include workplace theft, drinking or using drugs on the job, rudeness to customers, and serious safety violations. Management employees are often terminated for etiquette violations including vulgar language, workplace gossip, excessive personal phone calls, and poor personal hygiene.