It's hard to fire people, especially when you have invested time and money to hire and train. You want to try and make it work, but something is just not right. So you counsel and you motivate, and try to get the offender to conform.

Some situations are simply hopeless even if they don't seem blatantly obvious, and at that point damage is being done to the healthy part of the team. Don't put success at risk. Pay heed to insights from my Inc. colleagues and me about the telltale signs that it's time to help that person seek career development elsewhere.

1. Someone won't play nice with others.

There is little more frustrating than a high achiever that makes everyone else unhappy. If everyone has a minor complaint about this person, it's a sure sign that major issues are going to occur. Don't wait for the explosion. Find a way to quickly shore up the workload or sales and send that irritant packing. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the increase in morale, even if it means everyone else has to raise his or her game.

2. It's no longer worth the negatives.

Setting aside the obvious stuff, it's time for someone to go when the gain no longer outweighs the pain. Every employee is an investment, and you have the right to expect a positive return on that investment, financial and otherwise. If you can no longer overlook the negatives because the negatives are just too, um, negative, then it's time to find someone who is a better fit. Life's too short. Jeff Haden--Owner's Manual

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3. Nothing you do will make the person happy.

You know it's time to fire someone when the person is no longer fully engaged in his or her job, and there's nothing you can do to turn around the person's attitude. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be happy in a particular job forever. Usually, an employee who is unhappy will come to you with suggested changes--maybe a promotion, or a new set of duties or assignments. But sometimes someone will just sit and stew. When the latter is the case, then firing that person is the best thing you can do--for the person and for your company. Peter Economy--The Leadership Guy

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4. Conflicting priorities.

I once had an employee who did good work and understood what the client wanted. However, he was rarely accepting of the client's wishes and made his point by consistently running about 48 hours behind schedule. Most skills can be taught; however, the character and qualities you wish to demonstrate in your culture cannot be magically infused into an employee's personality. When your employee does not or cannot step up to your highest priorities, it's time to say goodbye. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

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5. Someone has lost enthusiasm.

When you can tell an employee has lost enthusiasm for the company or the job, it's time for the person to find something else to do. His or her dissatisfaction will become a cancer that impacts the rest of the team. Regrettably, few employees realize this issue on their own. As the person's manager or the owner of the company, begin by having an open conversation about his or her feelings. Offer to help the person find something else that might be a better fit--which could be within your own company walls. Don't believe that a promotion or more money will solve the problem--it rarely does. I am amazed at the number of times I have let someone go and he or she has thanked me. It shouldn't be a surprise if you have kept an open line of communication and may be the only way to relieve the stress an unmotivated employee can cause. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

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