Everyone has done it – held on to an employee too long. For
whatever reason (the person is family, a friend, or you just fear the whole process), you just can’t seem to muster up the courage
to get rid of that one particular employee. For some managers/owners, it’s
a simple process. For others, the prospect of releasing an employee is a
gut-wrenching experience they’d rather avoid. It doesn’t have to be. Not when
you have telltale signs it’s time to let that employee go. Sometimes, he or she is
practically asking for it.

Use these as tips for how and when you should release an employee.

1. Apathy

The
biggest problem with apathy is that it not only prevents people from doing
their jobs, it’s quite contagious. Should you wind up with an outbreak of
apathy, recovery can be quite a chore. If an apathetic employee is one
who previously displayed no such behavior, it would be to your benefit to get a feel
for what’s going on. If the employee is undergoing a personal issue, make sure
he understands that, although you respect his personal life, he needs to keep the apathy in check. If the
employee indicates no issues are going on, then it’s very likely his apathy is
aimed specifically at work.

2. Disappearing acts

If disappearing acts are preceded by the employee dressing up
(beyond the norm) or other changes in behavior, it could mean he’s already
scouting out new employment. If not, he could simply be skirting his duties. Either way, ducking out beyond regularly scheduled breaks is a sure
sign you have an employee who feels he’s above and beyond the job. Not
only do you risk other employees assuming unscheduled disappearing acts are
allowed, those who do follow the rules will become resentful.

3. Arguments

Argumentative employees usually take two forms: those employees who feel strongly about their positions and those who have grown weary of their
environment and wish to argue for the simple act of releasing aggression.
If the former, congratulations, you have a passionate employee! If the latter,
you have someone on your team who has reached the point where a blowup is
imminent. When the latter begins frequently arguing with you,
other management, fellow employees, or clients, it’s a very good sign that it’s
time for that employee to go. If you’re kindhearted, you could (and
probably should) bring the employee in for a conference to see if any issues
can be resolved. Otherwise, it’s “Hit the road.”

4. Productivity decline

Production loss can come for many reasons. Sometimes staff
can become overloaded with work or be placed on a project they have no business
on because they lack the skill set. Other times, a drop in production can come
for no apparent reason. It’s when this type of slowdown occurs that attention
must be paid to the culprit. If the employee in question seems to be spending
more time with his eyes in places other than their work, it’s time to
bring that employee in for a chat. When that happens, the employee will either
deny your claims or make excuses for his (in)action.

5. Secrecy

Huddled employees who scatter when you appear are a problem. When
you start hearing whispered tales around the office, that could mean dissension
is spreading like wildfire. In some cases, those tales can be traced back to
one particular member of the team. It’s always best to get to the heart of the
matter before that discontent (or false information) is spread among the
masses.

6. Disaffection

Cleaning house is a bad sign. When you an employee slowly
removing her personal effects from her  desk, you should take that as a
sure bet the employee is starting to disassociate herself from her job and
the company. The end game in this scenario is a slow severing of the ties that
bind. During that process bad blood can be spilled. If you find this employee
already dangling on an unsteady precipice, it’s time she was cut loose.

7. Pot-stirring

This one of the most damaging behaviors you’ll find in the
office. When you see signs of this behavior, the first thing you must do is
find out who is holding the spoon. The one fomenting trouble, whether it’s by
spreading rumors or setting employees against one another, is doing so for a
reason (either legitimate or not). That staff member must be dealt with quickly
or you’ll never calm the sauce of your department/company.

8. Unreasonable demands

When an employee becomes dissatisfied with either her jobs or
her work environments, she’ll start asking for things that aren’t realistic. She is practically begging for you to let them go. If you find
this to be the case, oblige her. Do take one thing under consideration – if
more than one employee seems to be making unreasonable demands, it is upon you
to figure out if there is one employee driving this coup or if you have
actually created an environment that breeds such behavior. Take responsibility
and try to view the situation objectively; you might discover something that
can be easily remedied.

9. Redundancy

If you’re lucky, you can afford to keep someone around for the
times when his or her skills are a necessity, even if that need ebbs and flows.
When business is in high demand, those redundancies can keep you afloat, but when
business is slow, you’re spending more than you need. The most important thing
is to try and strike a balance. But economics might lead to the hard decision
to cull the herd a bit, and rely on a contractor if and when the situation
requires it.

10. Internal affairs

I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill office politics. I’m
talking about emotional and sexual affairs. It’s tough to devise a policy that prevents
dating among employees, but it’s smart. As much as we don’t want to admit this,
inter-office romance can be a breeding ground for big trouble. When this happens, you’ll find yourself cleaning
up messes you don’t want to be involved in. Try to avoid this altogether by creating
a strong policy concerning relationships in the workplace. If someone breaks
that policy – they have to go.

The hiring and firing of employees is a tough business. This
is especially true when you’re trying to create an environment of trust and
ease. In the end, there will always be hard decisions to make.