How To Fire Someone Part 1: Asking Yourself “Should I Fire This Person?”

One of the toughest questions that comes across my desk is “should I fire this person?” If you’re asking that, it means you have two thoughts in your head that seem to conflict with each other. How do I know?

Well, if you weren’t conflicted, you’d have fired them already or have quit stressing it. When we are unsure about someone working for us, we often think it’s “role conflict“. We think we like them as a person, but not as an employee (or, less often, vice versa). In some rare cases role conflict is really the source of the problem. However, in most situations, the problem is much deeper, and much more easily solved. 

In this article, I’m going to argue that you’re not struggling with role conflict. In fact, you’re struggling because you don’t have the Right Person in the Right Seat™.

Let’s start with the source of the problem: The Conflict.


Should I Fire This Person Reason 1: Right Person. Wrong Result.

 One half of your brain is saying, “This person isn’t getting it done. Solve this problem now. Fire them.”

The other half is screaming, “This person worked here for ages. They were great for years. We can’t just let them go.”

I’ve seen this happen a lot. This person doesn’t just fit your culture, they help define it. They are a bright shining example of the kind of human being you want working there. But, recently, for whatever reason, their ability to actually put skins on the wall has been dropping like a North Korean space station.

At this point you have to ask yourself if this is the right person for this “seat”. In The Entrepreneurial Operating System® Online we use a simple tool called the Accountability Chart™, which is a way of organizing your business that focuses on function, not title. 

Step one of determining if this person should be fired, is determining what aspects of their job they aren’t getting done. Why is that so important? There are a couple of truths this tool can bring up. For instance:

  1. The job has become bigger than this person. Maybe they would be happier in a less c-level position
  2. The job description has changed too much. This day-to-day is no longer something they are skilled at
  3. The job has become bloated. This person just has too much stuff they are doing.

There are more, but 3 seemed like a super good number to end on. You get the point. How can you really ask, “should I fire this person,” until you’ve 100% defined the role they are in. Doing so not only gets you clarity on the role, but the person in it.

Should I Fire This Person Reason 2: Wrong Person. Right Result.

I love this problem. Why? It’s much more common than Reason 1, but far less often addressed. Let me give you a wonderful example.

Meet Bob! Hi, Bob.

Bob has been working as a senior development officer at a major international charity for 10 years. Bob gets it done like no one else. He brings in big donors and makes them feel 100% taken care of. Bob pulls in more than the rest of the team combined. He does the work of 4 people and he lets them know all the time. Bob asserts his opinion about every operation in the building, because he is so smart. Bob encourages us to harshly chastise volunteers that don’t make their door-to-door donation quota. We hate Bob.

See, Bob doesn’t fit. He’s great at his job. There’s no doubt. The problem is that Bob is simply not in line with the company culture. His numbers are at record highs, though, so we tip toe around the fact that we hate him. Meanwhile, we’ve lost several of our long-term donors and a small army of volunteer organizations that we have been working with for decades.

Sure, Bob is getting his job done, but he is poisoning the company by being the antithesis of the kind of person we want working here.

If this sounds like a problem you are facing, I strongly encourage you to look at our People Analyzer™ tool.

I want to be up front. This is not a pleasant tool. This tool can hurt; it must hurt. It requires brutal honesty with yourself and the employee. And while they don’t have to be there while you fill it out, they deserve to be made aware of the results.


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