Firing the Right Person?

It always amazes me how long a business owner will hang on to the wrong employee, the type who, despite their value to the organization, rubs against company culture.  My experience finds a few archetypes:

  • The high performer who runs just outside the boundaries of the company processes and values
  • The long-time employee who does not keep up with the changing business environment
  • The person whose under-performance imposes a greater workload on their peers

You get the picture.

The reasons are many and varied as to why we as leaders hang on to these problematic employees.  It usually boils down to “feeling bad” about having to deal with them.  Compassion is a virtue, yet sometimes we ignore the wider impact of these choices. 

A valuable exercise for you and your management team is to make a simple ledger with two columns—the benefits and detriments of this employee.  Understand that the positives of column one are costing you the negatives of column two.  Then honestly ask yourself, “Am I willing to pay for the benefits with the detriments?”.

Our responsibility as business owners, leaders and managers is to invest in these types, supporting them through coaching, training and mentoring.  After all, at one time they were hired for good reasons—right?

The employee’s response will be one of three:

  1. To grow in competency and relational skills
  2. To “wake up”, admit they’ve slipped, and become again the person you hired
  3. To self-select to leave the organization (voluntarily or with your nudge)

The ensuing benefit to the organization from any of these responses is what I call “buoyancy”—a lift, a bounce to company morale and productivity.  Everyone wins. 

Examine your workforce and ask yourself if you are hanging on to someone who, when you think it through, might be better off at another company.  The workplace is a contrived environment where people are expected to come alongside each other and work in unity for a common mission and purpose.  Sometimes the dynamics are not right and there is no disgrace in that.  The shame is in allowing it to go on, harming the rest of the organization. 


Before becoming a Convene Chair, Joe gained thirty years of business experience in the construction and real estate development industries. After gaining much knowledge he started his own construction company, growing the business from a specialized subcontracting business into multiple entities.