Firing Strategy…

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Do you have employees you’re not proud of? Then deal with it!

The “how” of firing is typically not the problem. It’s the “who” and “when” that gets in the way. Business decision makers will tell me about a problem employee and how he/she is a poison to the operation and not living up to minimum performance or behavior standards. They will remind me that they are in an “at-will” state and can fire anyone they want, whenever they want. My response is “OK, what’s stopping you? No, seriously just terminate. Montana is the only state that limits the “at-will” rights of a private, non-union employer, so go ahead.” Apparently the decision maker is taken aback when the HR guy doesn’t start screaming about morale or citing a violation of some regulation that will insure costly litigation. In fact, the numbers show the odds of an employer getting involved in a discrimination case over a firing are pretty slim. Last year EEOC handled 99,412 charges, dropped 67.9% and only filed 122 merit suits.

I can hear a decision maker’s rant on an employee’s poor behavior or read a bad performance evaluation and determine that this employee should be gone. It’s easy for me, or any outsider, because we are not emotionally involved. I did not hire this guy. My kids don’t go to school with this woman’s kids. I don’t go to church with this employee. I’m not going to have to explain the whereabouts of this employee to patients. The problem is not legal…it is emotional. Decision makers do not want to fire.

Firing is something all business decision makers should be good at, but not comfortable with. Good people know who the bad ones are. They know we know and expect us to do something about it. Firing for bad behavior or performance rewards good behavior and performance.

You can feel it. When I meet miserable, grumpy, disengaged employees I don’t blame them. I blame their bosses. I come away determined not to go back and thankful that I don’t have to work around those people every day.

Strategically the “who” is any employee who has fallen below minimum performance or behavior expectations. The “when” is as soon as possible. You may decide that you want to salvage and give the employee a reasonable chance to improve. Just don’t count on the problem to go away by  itself. You’ll know it’s time when your good employees and patients start leaving because they think you don’t care.

It’s not always about performance. The problem may be behavior. You do not have to wait until their behavior affects their performance. Adopt a behavior standard as part of your corporate culture.

Now, do not go back to work and start firing people today. I have a Master’s Degree in Employment Law and I have trained thousands of managers but I am NOT an attorney and do NOT give out legal advice. Part of your decision making process should be to review the situation and any documentation with HR and local legal counsel. You can contact me at and check out my website

Hunter Lott

is an HR consultant dedicated to the rights of management. Check him out at or contact him directly at and mention Net32.

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is an HR consultant dedicated to the rights of management. Check him out at or contact him directly at and mention Net32.

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Last modified: April 2, 2013

2 Responses to " Firing Strategy… "

  1. Richard Rosen says:

    I read your article and have an employee who I wish to let go. She recently disclosed to us that she has a documented disability (alcoholism) and at the same time that we can’t terminate her for that. But she frequently does not show up for work and cites weather conditions etc. etc. but she doesn’t contact us either. I believe that I can fire her for cause, not for her disability.

    Please advise


  2. anonymous says:

    Check out this Triangle Business Journal article:
    Basically, it states that as long as you have an attendance policy and enforce it uniformly you are within the ADA guidelines.
    “…Employers should enforce workplace standards uniformly: Employers should establish and enforce workplace standards regarding alcohol in the workplace. The ADA specifically provides that employers may take the following measures: Prohibit alcohol in the workplace; require employees to not be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace; and require the same job performance and behavior from employees with alcoholism as other employees.

    For example, an employer may enforce a tardiness policy against an individual with alcoholism in accordance with the policy, but only if the employer enforces the policy in the same manner against other employees. “

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