I do not enjoy conflict, so firing people is not on my short list of things I like to do. I may have envisioned a few crazy scenarios of epic firings in my head over the years, but in general, it is easy to overlook poor attitudes and unproductivity. While I might consider a leader to be weak and passive when they don’t fire a lazy worker, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t want to do it either. It’s uncomfortable for everyone in the office when someone is fired, but leaving an unmanageable, unteachable, or unproductive employee makes for a toxic workplace.
3 Reasons to Go Through With the Firing
There are a lot of reasons to fire an employee that may not only involve HR, but also law enforcement. Those are the exceptions, not the rule. Generally, it’s the subtle undermining of unmanageable, unteachable, and unproductive employees who drain the energy from a workplace and create a toxic environment. Here’s why these traits can be particularly toxic, and why you should do something about it.
1. They’re Unmanageable
The unmanageable employee might initially seem like a big picture type of person, but you quickly realize that they don’t actually have ideas, they have opinions. This employee also needs to have those opinions heard – even if everyone else on the team is on a different page, talking about a different subject. The unmanageable employee does not like to be told what to do or reminded of timelines. Yet when they’re out of the loop, they complain that no one told them what was happening. You cannot win with this person, because they do not want to be managed or feel responsible.
2. They’re Unteachable
Skills are important. However, it’s better to train a teachable employee than to hire an experienced employee who refuses to be taught. My own six year old just told me last night that he doesn’t really love the teaching part of playing sports – just the having fun part. I thanked him for his honesty, but I also informed him of the foolishness of that posture. Unfortunately, that posture is one we might expect in moldable children, but when it’s found in a grown adult, it can be discouraging for managers and team members to constantly deal with the unteachable employee.
3. They’re Unproductive
Sometimes, we respond to unproductivity with more oversight and micromanaging. Turnover is costly, but just think of all the time wasted when you have to push an employee along every step of a project. More goals can be set and more achievements can be made when you do not have to babysit an unproductive employee. There is a difference between a posture of unproductivity and actual issues with accomplishing the workload. Be sure you don’t confuse an employee who needs help with an employee who is bent on doing nothing.
If You Can’t Fire Them, Do Not Promote Them.
In some ways, lost opportunities are hard to define, especially since toxic people drag others down with them. However, if you do not have measurable actions documented and you need to make immediate changes, do not promote the employee. Sometimes, we think that if we could just give the problem employee more responsibilities, they will either see the light or they will create bigger problems, making it easier to fire them. But really, that just sends a terrible message to the rest of your staff. It becomes clear that company leadership does not value a good attitude or a high level of work. It also makes leadership look shortsighted and weak. You just wind up with the cost of turnover of good employees.
Ignored Problems Just Get Bigger
Don’t underestimate just how toxic unmanageable, unteachable, and unproductive employees are in your office culture, and how draining these employees are to your bottom line. Document everything, and then fire them. And don’t forget that this individual can easily become a disgruntled insider threat: make sure your security and IT teams are informed.