The content this week contains thoughts on firing or “freeing up someone’s future.”

The national headlines make this a better week than usual to write about ways to approach the choice of firing someone.

In our view, there are only two reasonable reasons to fire someone (other than for criminal behavior). The first is when they do not meet clearly stated expectations. This is a “performance” based firing. Often, the responsibility for poor performance is shared by management as well as the individual. This is the case when there is a poor fit between role and person or a lack of training or resources to do the job well.

Sometimes, on the other hand, there is a lack of motivation by the employee and this lack of motivation translates into sub-par performance. If this is the case, you’re probably better off walking away than trying to change motivation. While there are no absolutes, if someone lacks motivation and they don’t respond to your attempts to inspire them, they probably aren’t going to become one of your even average performers.

In the end, if expectations are not being met, moving to redeploy or fire someone is a hard but necessary action for the health of the organization.

The second reason to fire someone is because he/she does not share your organization’s values. If someone does not share the values that drive you and is an under-performer, it’s an easy decision to make. Why keep him or her? This is in contrast with the situation of someone being a great performer but not sharing your organization’s values.

In the latter case, the great performance is at the expense of shared values. A common example of this is when someone does their job well but does not respect co-workers and/or customers. The tradeoff here is between employee morale and an individual’s performance above average for someone in their position.

I can say, we’ve never seen an individual’s contribution to the bottom line above average for their role, exceed the cost associated with turnover and productivity of offended employees. Mathematically, one could express this as (Revenue Contribution Above Average for Role) < (Cost of Turnover of Offended Employees + Cost of Lost Productivity of Offended Employees).

While it’s not easy to calculate the values associated with variables like “Revenue Contribution Above Average for Role,” the point, hopefully, is clear. Even top performers in any given role, cannot overcome the cost of their disrespectful behavior (because it inevitably affects multiple individuals).

Please let us know if you have questions. Firing someone, in most cases, is a hard decision, made only slightly easier by being clear about whether it’s for performance issues or values concerns.

The quotes:

“The single biggest lesson I learned was when a hire isn’t working out fire them fast. My biggest mistakes, and where I’ve seen the worst results, were when I gave someone too many chances, or let a situation drift on for too long because I couldn’t bring myself to terminate it.” ― Cindy Gallop

“We should be firing bad teachers.” ― Malcolm Gladwell

Cindy Gallop. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2017, from Web site:

Malcolm Gladwell. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2017, from Web site: