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When (and Why) to Separate from an Employee

Employee separation is probably one of the least fun tasks a business owner must do. It can be stressful, awkward, and downright unpleasant…especially if you've built any sort of relationship with them along the way. But this isn't a fraternity or a charity; this is business. And if you've got someone on the team not pulling their weight, there's no need to let him or her drag you and the rest of the group down. 


First things first, let's talk about how to mitigate the risk of hiring a dud employee in the first place. (An ounce of prevention and all that, you know?)

  1. Be clear about your expectations: Before you even start the hiring process, make sure you're clear about what you're looking for in an employee. What skills do they need? What experience? What kind of attitude and work ethic are you looking for? Being clear about your expectations can help you identify candidates who are a good fit for your business.
  2. Use behavioral interviewing techniques: When interviewing candidates, ask them questions requiring them to give specific examples of how they've handled certain situations in the past. This can help you better understand their problem-solving skills, communication style, and work ethic.
  3. Check references: Don't skip this step! Call the candidate's references and ask specific questions about their work history and performance. This can give you valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses.

Okay, so you've hired an employee, and despite the reference checks and putting them through a rigorous screening and interview process, they're not living up to your expectations. Now you're struggling with whether to let them go. Before you make that decision, consider whether you've given them a fair chance to prove themselves. Here are a few things to try:

  1. Provide training and support: Sometimes, employees struggle because they haven't been given the tools and resources they need to succeed. Consider offering additional training or support to help them improve their skills.
  2. Provide feedback: If an employee is struggling, it's essential to let them know. You can't expect them to fix something they don't know is broken. Provide specific feedback on what they're doing well and what they need to improve. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and clarify expectations.
  3. Set clear goals: Help employees understand what's expected of them and set clear goals for improvement. Make sure these goals are measurable and specific.

Now, let's talk about signs that it's time to separate from an employee. Here are a few red flags to watch out for:

  1. Poor performance: If an employee consistently fails to meet expectations, despite training and support, it may be time to let them go.
  2. Attitude problems: If an employee's negative attitude impacts the workplace, it may be time to part ways.
  3. Cultural fit: If an employee isn't a good fit with your company culture, it may be time to look for someone who is.

Once you've given it the "old college try" and decided it's time to separate from an employee, here are a few tips to help you handle the process:

  1. Be clear and direct: When letting an employee go, it's important to be clear and straightforward. Explain the reasons for the separation and what steps led to this decision.
  2. Be respectful: Even if you're letting an employee go for poor performance, it's important to be respectful and professional. This is a difficult time for both parties; treating the employee respectfully can make the process smoother.
  3. Offer support: Depending on the circumstances, you may want to offer the employee support to find a new job or transition to a new role. This can help them feel less isolated and may ease the sting of the separation.

Ending an employment relationship can be difficult, but there are ways to handle it professionally and respectfully. These tips can guide you through the process and provide insights for avoiding similar situations in the future.


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