"You're fired!" I've heard it from an employer, and I've been the one to say it. I got fired from a lab job in college. I was terrible at it. Looking back, that was so smart on their part. I was a hindrance, not a help.
If you've been in business for two years and haven't fired someone yet, I would be shocked. The way I see it, firing is just a part of any company's lifecycle.
Sometimes I call it "hiring gone wrong." I believe in firing fast, which is very different from my measured approach to vetting a potential hire. I want to be very honest that I've been slow to fire before. I've made the mistake a couple of times, thinking that the situation with an employee would improve. It never does. I'm trying to get better about being faster and can't say how important that is.
They Aren't Doing Their Job
It's obvious, but if the work isn't getting done, then it's time to let that employee go. This might manifest as missed deadlines, or it might be more glaring: simply not turning in the assignment at all. If my request should only take half an hour to accomplish yet somehow stretches out to a week, something is very wrong.
I'm fine to talk to that person who's not delivering once or twice, but if it becomes a pattern, I have no problem saying adieu. And as I said, I like to get it over with quickly.
This is in keeping with how we do things in general at my company, Alice. It should be no surprise that the employee is in trouble because we are extremely clear. When there are problems, we talk them through. As Brené Brown has said: "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind."
The same can be said for the firing process. I like to tell that person exactly why it isn't working as clearly as possible. I don't want any confusion. And usually, the process is amicable for exactly that reason. We both know that it isn't working, and that employee has had plenty of chances, so they know that our needs aren't in sync. They're then free to go somewhere that's a better fit.
What if they're doing their work efficiently but disrupting the goals of the team? My company is values-driven and if anyone proves to be in opposition to our ethics, that would be catastrophic. We even put a morality clause into our Series A contracts to ensure that anyone who is a part of Alice represents our values of inclusiveness at all times. Otherwise they're out.
Same thing goes for an employee. You've heard the term "One bad apple spoils the bunch" and it's true. One person with a negative attitude can slowly infiltrate the whole group if they're persuasive enough. We have zero tolerance for discrimination.
They're Culturally Toxic
There are people who are just incredibly effective, but you're not going to grab a beer with them after work. Then there are people who are perhaps not the most productive, but they are the glue of the team. There is a balance in all of this. If it throws off that balance, it's just not going to work. These are the hardest cuts to quantify, but it has to happen, and you can't let it stew too long.
The main reason that I'm swift to fire when necessary: I want my employees to respect me. Everyone knows who their worst coworkers are. If it's making its way around the cubicles that one particular person isn't carrying their weight, and I'm not doing anything about it, that makes me look ineffectual. And that's bad for the whole company. I'm supposed to be the leader and if I'm not leading, I'm no better than that weakest link. If that ever happens, I'll be the one who deserves to be fired.