20 Good Reasons to Fire an Employee

fired man staring at picture

A candidate may have smashed the interview process showing that they are the ideal employee, leaving you to think you’ve won the golden ticket. Yet, when they start working you begin to notice their bad habits and worry that they are toxic to the organisation. If the troublesome behaviour persists after a period of intense training, coaching and guiding, further action will be required. Firing an employee can be a really difficult task, needing careful documentation to avoid a lawsuit.

Here are 20 acceptable reasons to terminate a staff member’s contract to avoid damaging your client relationships, office morale, and your business's bottom line:

1. Unethical Conduct

Unethical conduct covers a wide range of misbehaviour including dishonesty, fraud, slander and theft. If you notice that an employee is acting in a way that isn’t morally correct, then it’s your cue to get rid of them. Having an employee with a bad attitude can damage your company’s reputation. This is even more important when it’s a small business; to salvage your internal culture, you will need to terminate their contract without warning.

2. Damaging Company Property

You hired an employee that seemed like a perfect fit, but, then got angry and turned into the incredible hulk. Whether intentional or not, if their actions led to damaging the company’s property and harming other employees, they must be dismissed and accompanied off the grounds.

3. Drug or Alcohol Possession at Work

Having an employee that’s intoxicated or taking drugs is an obvious reason for termination. This will clearly affect their performance and your reputation – who in their right mind would want an alcoholic or drug-addict as an employee?

4. Falsifying Company Records

Any type of deception is a crime; this unlawful action can lead to the employee not only fired, but being put in prison too. If your employee is carrying out any illegal activity you must notify the authorities as soon as possible.

5. Disobedience

If an employee is refusing to obey orders and has continuous communication issues with their colleagues, it’s a sign that they should be fired. You can’t have an argumentative character disrupting everyone else’s work on a daily basis.

6. Misconduct

If an employee has been sexist in any way, shape or form they should get the sack. Sexual harassment cases should not be taken lightly and should be dealt with immediately. Likewise, gross misconduct is also unacceptable and possesses a threat to the safety of all staff members. There must be documentation or witness testimony confirming the incident.

7. Poor Performance

Employees who fail to meet their employer’s expectations are at the risk of being fired. If you have given the proper training and guidance to help improve their performance, and they are still not meeting the correct requirements, you have a valid reason to terminate their employment. You must ensure you have documentation that describes repeated efforts to improve the employee’s skills.

8. Theft

Not only is it illegal, but it's a sackable offence. This includes both petty theft, such as a box of pens or a notepad, as well as stealing money and big items or equipment from the company. “Whether small or large, though, employee theft is a serious issue, costing American businesses $200 billion in annual revenue. Catching employee theft can be tricky, so it's important to have checks in place to catch it as quickly as possible, including regular audits, reconciling statements, or assigning multiple employees to tasks” Inc reported.

9. Using Company Property for Personal Business

Although you probably don’t mind if an employee uses the company printer for something, or to send an occasional personal email from their work computer. But, if your employee is constantly pushing the boundaries and spending a long amount of time talking about personal matters on the phone or doing anything that isn’t work-related, they are in the firing line.

10. Too Many Absences

Some employees are always late, frequently take sick days or unpaid holiday as they have exceeded their regular holiday allowance. These type of staff members are not hard workers and will not add any value to your company. You will need to keep a note of all their added absences and notify your HR department, before approaching the topic with caution. If they do genuinely have a health issue you may be in the hot seat for a lawsuit.

11. Violating Company Policy

Company policies are in place for a reason, to keep the employees all at one level and to ensure they are in the most productive habitat. If an employee keeps wrongfully violating the policies, it’s time to consider their dismissal. If one worker gets away with breaking the rules, others will shortly follow suit.

12. Bad Culture Fit

Sometimes hiring managers are so focused on whether a candidate has the right skills for the job, they forget the importance of employing someone who understands the company’s goal and culture. Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group, wrote in The Wall Street Journal  that “while they may have great skills for the role you are looking for, the overhead of managing and integrating this person into your young team will be extremely difficult.” If you see that an employee is not a good culture fit early on in their employment, you are not legally bound to them and can terminate their employment with ease.

13. Fails to Commit

Commitment is one of the most desirable qualities to an organisation, you want to find a loyal employee that will grow and prosper. But, sometimes, it doesn’t pan out and you get an employee that cannot commit to a deadline, let alone the company. If the problem persists, it’s a good reason to fire them.

14. Lack of Enthusiasm and Drive

It’s easy for employees to be motivated in the early stages of their employment, but you will notice a few that dwindle off and lack the drive that you want within your company. Although a valid reason, this can be difficult to follow through based solely on ‘lack of enthusiasm’. You will need to find other reasons (with proof) such as “poor performance”; if the employee has already passed their probation period.

15. Dishonesty

A common reason for termination is if the employee has been lying. Employees who lie about their work or credentials betray the trust between an employer and its workforce. If you cannot trust your workers, you have little choice but to let them go. “Dishonesty… can also involve the manipulation of a position for personal gain, or the creation and spread of gossip about fellow workers and the company as a whole. In any case such behavior is not acceptable and should be dealt with accordingly” reported on Chron.

16. Persistent Negativity

If an employee's negative comments are disrupting meetings and undermining the work you're doing as a business leader, you'll have to tackle the issue both tactfully and directly. Try to diffuse the situation at the moment, then pull the employee aside later for a one-on-one talk about their behaviour. It’s important to focus on the way the comments are affecting the meeting and the ability of the rest of the team to listen, instead of attacking the employee about their personality. Before firing the employee, make sure the behaviour is in direct violation of company policy.

17. Inconsistent

Employees must be consistent and stable in their behaviour and productivity in order to benefit the overall goals and procedures of the company. While many people have their ups and downs, long spans of inconsistencies can be detrimental to your business, and you may have no choice but to terminate their employment.

18. Falling Behind

Some employees do not complete the tasks they are given and always rely on the help of others to complete the task they were given on an important project. “If other employees are constantly being asked to help out a slower co-worker and the productivity of the entire department is suffering because of it, you are justified in your dismissal of the employee. Of course, second chances are always an option and with a little guidance you may be able to correct the situation.”

19. Lying on a CV

This is without a doubt one of the top reasons to terminate someone’s employment. If they have told you they worked as a manager for example and you have hired them based on that experience, then find out that it’s untrue, you are justified to sack them with immediate effect.

20. Chatterbox

Although this isn’t a common reason to fire an employee, it can be if the employee is disrupting their team and their productivity. If you notice that a staff member is spending more time in the corner gossiping with “Jane” and “Paul” and whoever else they can suck in, then you should speak to them and give them a warning. If the issue persists it may be time to let them go.

As a manager, you'll occasionally be required to deal with difficult employees and have the gruelling tasks of firing some of them. With the above list, you can determine whether your reason for firing employees whose behaviour might be toxic to the environment you've worked hard to create is in fact justified.

Do you have additional reasons you have come across when firing an employee? Let us know if you have any questions or comments in the section below…