Terminations – A Necessary Evil… But They Don’t Necessarily Have to be Evil

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“Oh, do you get to fire people?”

That is one of the questions I get when people hear that I’m in HR. I hate that question. Yes, sometimes I have to terminate someone’s employment, and no, I don’t bark the words, “You’re fired!” I try to be as compassionate as possible when delivering bad news.

In fact, I actually hire far more people than I fire. And it is a much more enjoyable and satisfying part of the job. But yes, terminating someone’s employment is sometimes necessary.

It goes without saying that under-performing employees should be trained, coached, and given the tools necessary to succeed. But if they continue to under-perform, termination is often the best option for a number of reasons:

1. The employee may be suffering at the position. Often they know that they are not succeeding. They may know that the job just isn’t for them and they wake up every morning feeling miserable that they need to go to a job at which they feel like a failure. As they are still employed, they don’t have time to interview for other jobs, and if they quit then they can’t collect unemployment. When you terminate them (in a gentle manner) they will be relieved of the stress of being a failure (trust me, this is sometimes true), they will collect unemployment and they will have time to seek a job that is a better fit for their skills.

2. Sometimes the employee needs a wake-up call to improve their habits or attitude. For some people, being terminated forces them to do some serious soul searching. They realize that they need to make changes to be successful. Countless people’s lives have been drastically improved after being terminated for under-performance.

3. It is a disservice to many parties to keep under-performing employees on the payroll merely because you feel bad about terminating them. The employee probably knows that they are failing (see #1 above). You will run your company into the ground by paying people that don’t produce. And your good employees will see that the under-performer is still there. Still getting paid and still under-performing. How do you think that makes the over-performers feel? Let me assure you, it’s not going to motivate your over-performers to continue to work hard. And yes, they know who the under-performers are.

So, yes, I sometimes terminate people’s employment. In doing so, I hope that it will be a stepping stone for the individual and help them reach even greater places in their life and career.

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