10 Signs it’s Time to Fire the Employee If You Are a Startup

It’s unusual to find someone who looks forward to firing their employees. Firing someone changes that person’s life, as well as the future of the company. It affects all businesses, but most seriously affects start-ups that are in their first stages of operation.

Firing employees in a start-up can lead to an overload of work placed on a team that is too small or not experienced enough to handle the workload. It may be a necessary decision to fire an employee, but not always best for a company still in its most fragile phase.

However, action needs to be taken for employees who are at risk of creating a toxic work environment or just aren’t living up to expectations. Here are ten signs it’s time to fire an employee in a start-up.

1) Performance Issues

If this employee has a history of performance issues and not meeting expectations, it may be time to fire the employee. You can give training and guidance to help improve performance, but these resources only work on employees who have the will and ability to succeed. This goes hand-in-hand with a good attitude.

Check with the employee’s references (listed on their job application or resume) to determine if this has always been an issue, or if something else may be going on. Team members who consistently fall short of company expectations run the risk of bringing the average quality of product or service down, which can affect overall success and profits. If pursuing the termination of the employee, ensure that there are records that describe repeated efforts to improve performance skills. This will assist in any inquiries down the line, and provide background information on the history of the employee.

2) Unethical Conduct

It’s logical to fire someone if they steal from or slander the company. Employees who do this will often have a history of misconduct at their previous jobs as well, which is why it’s important to check with their references before hiring.

Unethical conduct usually starts small, but certain small actions and poor choices can lead up to more severe forms of misconduct.

For instance, misusing company time by altering a time-sheet or taking office supplies home can lead to more severe misconduct like abusive behavior or deception. This is more common than people may think. Examples of unethical conduct include:

  • Deception or lying
  • Cheating
  • Bribery
  • Falsifying data
  • Theft of company or co-worker property
  • Prejudice
  • Harassment

Morals are important in the workplace; employees who do not act morally will have a massive effect on the rest of the team, even if it doesn’t appear outwardly or instantly.

Trust can be broken between teammates, which brings tense situations and lower quality of work. An environment of mistrust and skepticism causes an awkward workplace. The behavior may even be contagious and spread to others.

In the case of harassment or bullying, other employees can be hurt emotionally or physically. Severing the employee before the behavior becomes too severe or spreads to others shows that the company values its culture, and disrespect will not be tolerated.

3) Not Obeying Orders or Requests

If an employee refuses to obey orders from their superiors or logical requests from co-workers, it might be time to pursue termination. Issues such as not completing assigned tasks, not helping other teammates with their tasks (within reason), or other repeated offenses are hazardous to the workplace and should be taken seriously.

Employees who question demands and decisions of management (for example, not questioning to improve but to raise doubts about their superiors), are a risk as well, even if nothing comes of their questioning.

Remember that not completing a task due to not understanding the assignment is different from not completing the task “because they didn’t feel like it”. Start-up businesses are fragile and do not mesh well with employees who have a combative character, so termination should be strongly considered in severe cases.

4) Lack of Passion or Drive

To succeed, start-up companies need their employees to be passionate about their work. This fuels the entire team to continue working, even if the outlook is bleak or things don’t seem to be going well.

Passionate employees stand out in their interviews and are often eager to improve through criticism. Although an employee may be hired for their apparent enthusiasm, that energy needs to be maintained throughout their tenure.

Employees without passion or drive only bring the mood of the company down, which can affect the team. Employees who are not passionate about the company or their work can often be seen as having a lack of consistency in their work ethic and quality, which is also grounds for termination. With any problem, consult with the employee to see if anything is going on that management should know about. If the behavior continues, consider more serious action.

5) Negative Attitude

Everyone has a bad day at the office, but an employee who is constantly negative is disruptive and affects the rest of the employees. Cynical employees can put a downer on everyone’s day, and make the work environment gloomy. A positive attitude is a must-have for a start-up because it can help employees cope with stressful situations common with new businesses, and having a positive mindset can help achieve company goals.

If an employee is bringing the team down with their apathy, try arranging a private meeting to determine if this behavior can be corrected. There may be something going on in their life that nobody knows, or that they feel stressed and hopeless about. If not, and if the behavior is for no reason except to be disruptive, it may be time to let that person go.

6) Disruptiveness

It’s difficult to get work done when there are employees in the office who are disruptive. This includes minor disruptions such as having loud conversations or situations that have escalated to profanity or verbal abuse. Threatening or violent behavior is also in the category of disruptive behavior, although a more severe form. Indicator signs of disruptive behavior include:

  • Poor relationships with customers or co-workers.
  • Persistent complaining about unfair treatment.
  • Entitlement to special rights.
  • Inability to control feelings, such as slamming doors or swearing.

In a start-up business, productivity is one of the key components for success. With distractions, productivity will decrease and the start-up will lose much-needed money. Employees who disrupt the team and affect productivity should be warned that if the issue persists, it may be grounds for termination.

7) Drug or Alcohol Possession at Work

This is one of the more obvious grounds for termination, especially in start-ups. Illicit drug use while employed is commonly illegal, but the laws for alcohol consumption are vague and may be specific to the company, so review company policy before pursuing termination. Employees who abuse alcohol outside of work will often come to work tired and off their game.

Consuming alcohol or drugs is completely unacceptable in any workplace, and is certainly grounds for immediate termination. However, drugs that are used for the employee’s health and well-being (such as medications for attention deficits, depression, or anxiety) should not be included in this rule.

Be sure to check what the policies are on prescribed medications, to ensure the employee is not being reprimanded for keeping up with their health. Otherwise, if the employee has a history of alcohol or drug abuse in or out of work, they need to be watched closely and terminated if it becomes an issue.

8) Taking Too Much Time Off

Employees who are constantly coming into work late or calling in sick may affect the productivity of the entire team. Working from home is great, but attendance is expected to be consistent.

Although there will be employees who are dealing with problems at home or have other reasons for being late or absent, some just don’t care about their attendance. This often shows that they do not care about the job. Warning signs of a problem with attendance include:

  • Arriving late or leaving early
  • Excessive absences
  • Absences with a pattern
  • Lack of a reaction when confronted about attendance

If a team member is taking too much time off, try asking them (in a non-invasive manner) if anything is going on that management should know about. There may be a reason for their poor attendance that they prefer not to disclose unless confronted. They may feel awkward describing details if this is the case, but reassure them that intimate details are not necessary and management only wants to help if needed.

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