6 Reasons Leaders Don’t Fire Employees and Should!

Scared Boss

So leader, are you a scaredy cat when it comes to firing employees? Or do you suffer from potential fear, regret, anxiety, or “analysis paralysis” when you have to let someone go?

If so, you are not alone!

But these (an many other) reasons so not let you off the hook of responsibility when it comes to your role in keeping your team working best and most efficiently. The sad truth in being a boss is that you will have to let people go.

Sometimes it is for performance, and other times is it because of downsizing. But this is still part of your job.

And although having people around who shouldn’t be there is bad enough, many leaders exacerbate the problem by not firing them.

So what’s a leader to do?

Here are 5 reason, no six, reasons why leaders don’t fire their employees and why they should.

6 Reasons Leaders Don’t Fire Employees and Should!

No. 1 – You see yourself as nice.

When someone is not performing, it is either because they are not motivated to perform or they do not have the requisite skills. If you’ve tried a variety of motivational strategies and have offered skills training, and yet you still haven’t seen significant progress, you and the employee are better off parting ways.

Firing may not seem “nice” in the short-term, but it’s actually the kindest thing you can do for struggling employees in the long-term; the sooner they’re fired, the sooner they can move on to jobs where they have a better chance to succeed.

Don’t let your self-image get in the way of doing what’s right.

No. 2 – You will have to do their job while you find a replacement.

Sometimes a replacement can’t be found within the organization. Sometimes the only one suitable for doing the job is you, the leader. The search for a replacement may take a while, which makes it even harder for you to swallow the idea of doing your job and another one.

Delaying firing is understandable, but not prudent.

Leaving a poorly performing employee in place not only delays the problem, it can amplify it. There is no telling how much of a drain this employee will place on morale and how much your leadership will be questioned–due to your tolerance of bad behavior or poor results.

No. 3 – You feel like you have not given the employee enough time.

You wake up every day competing with another company or someone wanting to get your job. Customers don’t want excuses; they want the best service available ASAP. Time isn’t a luxury you can afford.

If the deadline for improved performance has passed for this employee, start looking for a replacement.

Don’t keep restarting the clock.

No. 4 – They have been with the company for so long.

Loyalty is important to an organization’s stability and sustainability. All the accumulated knowledge and wisdom held in your employees’ minds helps you avoid past mistakes, maintain group identity, and support each other through ups and downs.

Loyalty, though, is a two-way street. Is it loyal for an employee to decrease output, engagement, alignment, and accountability, or fail to develop new skills? Both parties need to have each others’ backs.

Prolonged let-ups and let-downs are signs that the relationship has run its course.

No. 5 – You make the employee more important than your vision and mission.

As a leader, you are required to put the organization’s vision and mission ahead of any single employee, including yourself, while being true to your values and the organization’s.

Don’t let one employee deter or prevent the organization from fulfilling its vision and mission.

No. 6 – You think the remaining team members will dislike you.

Leaders often worry about the effect firing one employee will have on the rest of the team. They worry about being disliked. They worry about employees being angry or dispirited to the point where it decreases performance. They might worry about key members protesting or leaving.

Usually, though, if the fired employee was dragging the team down (and creating additional work for other team members), the team may miss the person, but they will celebrate your decision.

You will likely see the level of productivity go up,  not down, when everyone is pulling their own weight.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Gary B. Cohen
Gary Cohen is Author, Speaker (on leadership) & Executive Coach at CO2 Partners
He serves clients with executive coaching and leadership coaching services

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Image Sources: DK Photography

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2 responses to “6 Reasons Leaders Don’t Fire Employees and Should!

  1. Love your thoughts. Would add another reason – Dreading the HR process. Too often leaders don’t start documenting the issues soon enough and wait to call HR when they “have had enough.”. In our environment of file a claim or file a suit, my advice is document early even when you feel certain you can turn the employee around.


  2. HR is definitely one hurdle, the union another. Local laws and regulations a third. Firing people is something that has to be done now and then, of course. But it is never easy.


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