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Is It Time to Fire a Problem Employee? Know the signs – and follow the law in Middle TN

Sometimes it’s abundantly clear that you need to fire someone:

  • They no-show/no-call four days in a row.
  • They throw a temper tantrum in front of a client, and then verbally threaten them.
  • They convert their cubicle into a DJ booth and spin records instead of working.

Obviously, these are extreme (and thankfully, fictitious) examples. In real life, deciding it’s time to fire an employee is typically a tough judgment call – especially in our current employment market. Managers may wonder if it’s best to just let someone go, or invest in training and coaching to improve an employee’s performance and/or behavior.

So, when is it time to fire a staff member? Here are a few tips from our Lebanon employment experts:

Know Tennessee employee termination law before you make any decision.

According to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Tennessee is an “employment at will” state. This means that:

“Employers may legally terminate an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. However, an employer may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of the employee’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, or disability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.”

There are important exceptions to this rule, however, which include:

  • being called to military service
  • voting in elections
  • exercising right of association
  • wage garnishment
  • filing workers’ compensation claim
  • being called to jury duty

Tn.gov provides more detailed information about employers’ and employees’ rights as they relate to employment termination.

Then, look for these signs that it might be best to let the employee go:

  • Behavior slides from bad to worse. After confronting the individual about their unacceptable behavior (e.g., excessive absences, rude/inappropriate conduct, missed deadlines), you rightfully expected them to make a concerted effort to try harder. Instead, the opposite has happened. Rather than change their behavior, the individual has ignored your request, and offenses have become more frequent or egregious.
  • Coaching and training have proven ineffective. While you suspected the employee’s poor performance could’ve been due to a lack of job skills, working with him to improve their abilities hasn’t helped. Instead of building their skills, the coaching and training you’ve provided has only made the individual negative and defensive.
  • The employee’s behavior has a negative ripple effect. It was bad enough when your staff member created problems for themselves, but now their behavior and attitude has started impacting their co-workers and your customers.
  • The individual can’t – or won’t – change. Change is an important and inescapable reality in the world of work. But, rather than evolving along with your organization, the employee has refused to adapt their behaviors. Their unwillingness or inability to change has eroded their performance, causing them to fall even further behind.

Need to replace a problem employee?

Our Middle TN employment agency can help. We can:

  • quickly provide a trained temporary to provide interim coverage;
  • refer qualified direct-hire candidates with the skills, experience and personality to thrive in your organization.

What can we do for you? Give Wood Personnel a call today.