Terminating an employee is one of a business owner's least pleasant responsibilities. To get a handle on how frequently entrepreneurs fire workers, and which employees they are most likely to be unhappy with, we surveyed members of the Inc. Inner Circle, our reader panel. Here are the results, based on 251 respondents.

How many readers have fired a full-time employee in the past three months? 20%

Whom did they fire?
Well, it didn't always pay to be close to the boss: 12% fired their secretary or assistant.

Most fired department: Sales and marketing
Field sales reps were as likely to get fired as assistants and, as a group, sales and marketing staffers were most often on the chopping block.

  • Field sales rep: 12%
  • Client services/internal sales rep: 6%
  • Head of sales: 6%
  • Marketing staff member: 6%
  • Frontline customer service rep: 6%

Other endangered staff members

  • IT specialist: 8%
  • Project manager: 8%
  • Head of human resources: 6%

Analyzing the results
"In sales, there are clear metrics, so you know when a salesperson is doing a poor job," says John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm in Chicago. (Challenger himself has "released" one sales rep in the past six months.) As for secretaries and assistants, "it may be that they just are so visible in a small office," he says. "They typically sit close to the owner. If the work's not getting done or done right, it's apparent."

Published on: Jul 1, 2007