5 Critical Signs it’s Time to Fire an Employee


With competition for top talent at an all-time high, it is imperative for companies to be cognizant of not only hiring strategies, but also retention. It makes no sense to pull out all the stops to hire exceptional candidates, if they will be leaving quickly.

It is also important to keep a close eye on individual team members, and make sure they are truly a positive addition to your team. With low unemployment rates and reports of companies across the country not being able to fill important roles due to lack of qualified applicants,  it is not surprising that we are seeing an increasing number of hiring managers that are holding on to ‘bad apples’ because they are concerned about back-filling them.

Here are 5 critical signs that help you determine when it’s time to terminate an employee.

1.     They Have a Bad Attitude

Many managers underestimate the dangers of having a team member with a bad attitude. Study after study shows us that just one person can have a substantial negative effect on a team’s moral and production. And when they are in a leadership role, that ripple effect is compounded.

Company culture—including employee interactivity, work environment, mission, ethics, and values.

While an employee may have impressive credentials, their inability to fit into company culture  indicates a poor match and a short tenure. The sooner that is acknowledged, the better.

If an employee is loud, argumentative, tardy, and engages in frequent conflict with other employees, you should strongly  consider termination, irrespective of how stellar their performance is.

Allowing someone with a negative attitude to stay, risks having that attitude spread to other members of your team.

A bad attitude will ultimately hurt your brand identity and impact your entire teams overall employee performance and motivation.

2.     Business Productivity is Declining

If your business has been struggling to maintain productivity, it’s very likely that certain employees are doing the bare minimum. There is great truth in the adage that any team is only as good as their weakest link.

Not only will retaining unmotivated and static employees lead to declines in profit and growth, but it will also damage your company identity in the long run, thereby affecting how potential clients, employees, and customers perceive your brand.

This is yet another reason why tracking individual team members performance on a weekly basis is imperative to staying on top of performance.  It is critical to consistently analyze business metrics and performance reports to determine which employees are contributing to a decline in business productivity.

Imagine a spin class, where the instructor is pushing everyone to pedal faster. If you have someone next to you with a pulse rate of a single digit, is that going to likely encourage you to put more or less into your own efforts?

Regardless of the action, low activity breeds low activity.  

While holding weekly meetings or coaching seminars can go a long ways in reigniting motivation, underperforming employees will continue to damage business productivity. In such cases, it’s best to consider termination sooner, rather than later.

3.     They’re Stagnant and Disinterested in Long-Term Growth

Employees who are unwilling to learn from their mentors and take constructive criticism are very likely to cause disruption in the long run. Whether you’re noticing a lack of implementation of feedback or mediocre performance, it’s essential that you take strict measures to address stagnancy.

While certain employees may start off slow, their inability to grow with time indicates their unwillingness to adapt to the company’s requirements and agendas. Over time, this apathy  will begin to damage your business, thereby disrupting overall company growth and success.

In cases where you have an underperforming employee that is not interested in growth, it is smart to consider termination to prevent other employees from adopting a similar poor work ethic. Not only will you notice a boost in metrics, but your company culture will also retain its buoyancy.

Keep in mind that you can always teach new skills, and encourage best practices, but there is typically no cure for apathy.


4. Increasing Nonchalance

Certain employees tend to have an air of nonchalance that gradually takes a turn for the worse and diminishes motivation. If you’ve been noticing repeated signs of indifference—including inadequate preparation for team meetings or presentations, a sluggish attitude, lack of cooperation, and weak performance resulting from little to no effort invested in the task—it’s best to step in and hold a one on one meeting with the respective employee.

Address your concerns by outlining specific examples of their poor behavior, and give them specific tasks to complete. If they’re unable or unwilling to shape up, the sooner you terminate this type of employee, the better.

5. You Find Yourself Doing Their Job

Over time, certain employees hit a performance plateau. This gradual process begins with diminishing work quality. Within a few months, you begin to realize that you’re investing more and more time in correcting their work and providing guidance. Fast forward to a month or two later, and you’re essentially doing their job.

While you certainly want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and take the time to address their behavior, and offer specific things that they need to do to correct it, it’s likely that you’ll fail to reach a productive outcome.

When providing detailed directions on corrective behaviors, be sure to add a tight timeline for achieving those goals.

Performance plateaus typically indicate either a lack of motivation or skills required to complete required tasks.

The Peter Principle is real, and it is important to acknowledge when an employee is simply unable to successfully do his job, regardless of the reason.

It is often times best to consider termination and hire fresh employees who share the vision and passion required to boost company growth, sales, profit, and market presence.

At International Search Consultants (ISC), we’re dedicated to helping you find the perfect fit for your company. Our team of highly-skilled executive recruiters specializes in identifying top tier professionals in four primary industries—namely, banking and finance, sales, manufacturing, and construction.

With over 21 years of experience and a proven track record in the executive search industry, our team will help you find motivated and highly skilled candidates that give your business the boost it needs to reach new heights.

Contact ISC today to strategize on your ideal candidate profiles!

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, and can be reached via e-mail at or direct dial at 888-866-7276.

Kim Garrison is ISC’s Director of Banking Recruitment Services. Kim can be reached via e-mail at or direct dial at 800-270-3974.