10 Signs It’s Time To Fire “Toxic Tom,” Your Problem Employee


Fire EmployeeHave you ever put off firing an employee?

Maybe you delayed the inevitable because you actually liked him, and wanted to give him every possible opportunity to succeed?

Or have you ever had a “Toxic Tom,” the problem employee  that needs to go?

Often the pain of living with the problem employee is not as bad of the pain you feel when you think about terminating him–so the decision is delayed. And no action is taken.

As the leader of an outplacement practice, I can can tell you that one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do as a Senior Executive or an HR Leader ever has to do is to terminate an employee. 

It’s hard. And it doesn’t get easier with time.

But you’d actually be surprised to hear that 9 times out of 10, there’s a feeling on both sides it’s not working out. And getting terminated comes as somewhat of a relief.

If you are getting the feeling its time to terminate a problem employee, and are looking for reasons why, here a list of 10 things to think about: 

Here are 10 reasons why you should terminate “Toxic Tom,” your problem employee:

1. The data doesn’t lie. Performance evaluations, a file of complaints, when the documentation says it’s time to terminate the employee… it is.

2. Missed the latest memo. There’s new leadership — the employee’s not open to new direction.The good old days, along with the good old boss are gone.

3. That’s all there is. The organization needs more — and the employee can’t give it. Performance is unacceptable. Supervisors know. Top execs know. Everyone knows.

4. Toxic team-mate. The organization values teamwork — the employee doesn’t. He’s toxic. When he comes in the room, he’s avoided by everyone.

5. Not a fit anywhere. The organization has tried — and the employee doesn’t fit anywhere. After being transferred to 3 departments in the last 2 years, it’s not working.

6. Saps energy and productivity. One of your values is being positive — the employee’s negativity saps your energy; not just out of you, but out of your whole team.

7. Not open to learning new skills.  You’re a learning organization — the employee wants no part of the new ERP system. No to books. No to Seminars. No to Training.

8. Not coachable. Your organization values self-improvement — the employee doesn’t. Six months of coaching or counseling would not help.

9. You can do better. If you had 5 new candidates, any one of them would be better.

10. You’d let him go. If the employee quit today, people would silently rejoice. If he gave two weeks notice (which won’t happen), you’d tell him it’s probably better to leave today.

Nine times out of ten, the problem employee knows the end is near, and is walking around in fear that “today might be the last day.”

When you terminate your problem employee, you’re actually doing him a favor. So he can move on with the rest of his life. And you and your organization can move on with yours.

This post is #1 in a series of 3. Next:  The 8 Costly Mistakes Of Employee Termination And How To Avoid Them

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Tagged With: Insider, Executive Coaching

Mark Gonska

Mark Gonska is Executive Vice President and leads the Outplacement Practice for Dise & Company. He helps employers avoid the second most costly mistake they can ever make: retaining employees they should release. Also known as America’s Career Coach, Mark has assisted over 8,000 people moving forward in their careers.