Many business owners would admit privately that they have one or two employees they would love to get rid of given the opportunity. A recent tribunal case in which the judge felt the decision to dismiss was unreasonably harsh and specifically observed that the business owner clearly wanted to get rid of the employee in question got me thinking about this.
Who’s on your list?
As a business owner you have your top performers that you’re really happy with, but often there are one or two that you could really do without. Perhaps they’ve just never performed well enough despite being supposedly experienced and with lots of training and qualifications. Perhaps they are unreliable, have a poor attitude or have too-frequent tummy upsets on Monday mornings. You feel they are holding your team back, causing resentment among other staff and taking up way too much of your time. Sound familiar?
The most common reason new clients seek me out in the first place is because they have a serious problem with one employee. Enough is enough and they need help sorting it out. Often ‘sorting it out’ means ‘getting rid if at all possible’.
So can you ‘get rid’?
One of the lessons I learned early on in my HR career is that it’s usually possible to get rid of anyone. It’s just a question of working out what is the safest/most effective/cheapest/quickest way of doing so. Which of those criteria are most important will depend on the client, their priorities and the situation.
I’ve been at this a while and have probably dismissed (with zero tribunal claims) more employees than you’ve had hot dinners. Slight exaggeration, but it’s certainly a lot.
But part of that has been holding clients back on occasion. Whether it’s a gross misconduct dismissal or a ‘next step’ dismissal for someone on a final warning, I always ask them to imagine the circumstances as if they apply to one of their top performers. Would it still be ‘gross misconduct’? Would you give a top performer a disciplinary warning for the offence that you are hoping justifies dismissing someone who is on a final written warning?
Of course it’s fine and appropriate to take an employee’s overall record into account when deciding on an appropriate disciplinary sanction, but in circumstances where you are feeling pleased at being able to dismiss a problem employee, and find yourself jumping on something they’ve done with relief, just stop and check yourself. Frustrating as it might be, make sure you aren’t using something that’s not actually serious enough to warrant dismissal as an excuse to solve a problem for you.
Stop and think
It is usually possible to get rid of someone if that’s really what you need to do. But although it’s always possible to do it safely, it’s also very easy to do it unsafely, and a bit of perspective and ‘sanity-checking’ your decision is one of many things you can do to ensure you don’t end up in trouble.